Bataan Memorial Death March 2016: Honoring Those Who Gave To Their Country By Giving Back To Our Hungry Neighbors

2016 Bataan Memorial Death Marchers Meet 1942 Bataan Death March Veterans, March 20th, 2016, Photo Courtesy of Brian Brown & Shelby Stuckel

On March 20th, 2016, more than 6,000 U.S. active-duty military personnel from across the world converged in the desert of White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. They all had one mission: Complete a 26.2-mile Bataan Memorial Death March to honor those who gave to their country during World War II. Yet, many took on an additional mission for hungry New Mexicans: Carry as much food on their backs as physically possible to give to us at Roadrunner Food Bank.

These marchers came from as far afield as Australia, Canada, Japan, and the Philippines, as well as from across the United States. Starting at 7:00 am, these marchers began their journey with the knowledge that six Bataan Death March survivors also joined their cause.

Starting in 1942 after the U.S. Army surrendered the Philippine peninsula of Bataan to Japanese forces, the Bataan Death March forced more than 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war to march more than 65 miles to prison camps. More than 10,000 prisoners of war perished along the route. Thus, more than one marcher recounted feeling in “awe” of knowing that of the thousands who marched more than 70 years previously, there still remained those surviving service members to honor on during this memorial march.

Bataan Death Marchers During Their 65-Mile Trek, 1942, Photo Courtesy of National Archives

Bataan Death Marchers During Their 65-Mile Trek, 1942, Photo Courtesy of National Archives

Many of these Memorial marchers also performed double rounds of public service. Alongside honoring the fallen and the surviving Bataan Death Marchers, the Memorial marchers also carried +30, +40, +50-pound packs filled with nonperishable food. At least one marcher recorded an +80-pound pack. All of the packs of food would be donated directly to Roadrunner at the end of the course.

Given these weights, many Memorial marchers took the whole day to do the march and at least one marcher spent 15 hours during the course of his march. At one point, one of our Roadrunner staff on scene witnessed a marcher notice a fellow marcher starting to collapse from exhaustion. The observing marcher held onto his load, positioned himself to catch the falling marcher, and carried him, moving together to the finish line.

Bataan Memorial Death Marchers Weighing Packs of Food, March 20th, 2016, Photo Courtesy of Brian Brown & Shelby Stuckel

Bataan Memorial Death Marchers Weighing Packs of Food, March 20th, 2016, Photo Courtesy of Brian Brown & Shelby Stuckel

By day’s end, the more than 6,000 Memorial marchers deposited 24,334 pounds of food at the end of the course to give to Roadrunner. Such a collection proved to be a record amount of food given during the entire history of the Bataan Memorial Death March. Not only did these Memorial marchers honor the sacrifices of service members decades before and thousands of miles away. They also honored and gave back to the 70,000 New Mexican neighbors we at Roadrunner serve each week.

As President Abraham Lincoln wrote as part of the Gettysburg Address in 1863: “It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” Thus, we have that duty to finish the work of providing for our neighbors, for their well-being which generations of Americans have given their lives for. Let us solve hunger and close the meal gap across New Mexico!

Thank You, Bataan Memorial Death Marchers, White Sands Missile Range, & 1942 Bataan Death March Survivors For All Your Contributions! March 20th, 2016, Photos Courtesy of Brian Brown & Shelby Stuckel

Thank You, Bataan Memorial Death Marchers, White Sands Missile Range, & 1942 Bataan Death March Survivors For All Your Contributions! March 20th, 2016, Photos Courtesy of Brian Brown & Shelby Stuckel

Matthew “Matt” Young is the Communications Coordinator at Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico. To comment on this or other blog features, you can comment directly below; call Matthew at (505) 349-8845; or e-mail Matthew at matthew.young@rrfb.org. 

 



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