WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (March 22, 2017) — Two teams from the Indiana National Guard participated in the Bataan Memorial Death March over the weekend.
Both teams performed exceptionally well taking first place in the National Guard light division and second place in the National Guard heavy division.
A total of 7,200 marchers, 10 from the Indiana National Guard, participated in the 28th annual and 75th anniversary event honoring the Bataan Death March in World War II.
The 26.2-mile march takes place in the mountainous and desert terrain of New Mexico with light and heavy divisions competing as a team or individually. The heavy division is required to carry a 35-pound rucksack.
“I grew up looking at pictures of my dad and other guys within the unit running, and winning a lot of events, so my entire life I wanted to participate in this,” said Spc. Sam Farrington, Company D (Long Range Surveillance), 151st Infantry (Airborne).
During the opening ceremony, retired Army Maj. General Tony Taguba, who marched in honor of his father Sgt. 1st Class Tomas Taguba, a Bataan prisoner of war, and his mother who worked at a POW camp, gave an inspiring speech.
“There's a reason why we're doing this today. We stand on the shoulders of all of the survivors who endured the Bataan Death March. All of us are doing this for a reason. I will tell you it's going to be painful out there but not as painful as what my father used to tell me when he was captured.”
The memorial death march honors a group of World War II heroes who defended the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines. On April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of American and Filipino Soldiers surrendered to Japanese forces. These soldiers faced horrifying conditions and treatment as POWs.
Spc. Justin Stuart, also with Company D, reflected on the experience after completing the march.
“It definitely has more meaning to me now after finishing. These men were force marched, in much worse conditions, for over 60 miles. We just did a fraction of that. I have an immense amount of respect for what those guys went through.
The Indiana National Guard infantrymen who competed in the memorial march are part of the 38th Infantry Division, also know as the “Avengers of Bataan”.
For six-and-a-half months, the division was engaged in major combat. They fought against more than 80,000 Japanese, killing 26,732 and ultimately taking more than 13,000 prisoners.
The division's rapid drive across the peninsula was critical to Gen. Douglas MacArthur's campaign by preventing a Japanese withdrawal into Bataan, and ultimately liberating the peninsula.
The division celebrated 100 years since its inception this year.
Team members from the light division included Spc. Sam Farrington, Sgt. Brad Holloman, Spc. Carbajal Montes, Spc. Rainald Comia and Spc. Chris Anders. Representing the heavy division was Sgt. 1st Class Josh Chenault, Spc. Blade Cain, Spc. Justin Stuart, Spc. Mark Freese and Sgt. Ryan O'Donnell.