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Observations from Bataan Memorial Death March on March 17, 2019

March 17, 2019 brought thousands of men and women from all fifty states and foreign countries to the Southern New Mexico desert and White Sands Missile Range for the Bataan Memorial Death March. The march is a memorial commemorating the forcible transfer by the Japanese Imperial Army of between 60,000 and 80,000 US and Filipino prisoners of war beginning on April 9, 1942 after the Battle of Bataan in the Philippines. The prisoners of war suffered unspeakable abuse and torture as they were forcibly marched over 60 miles to awaiting trains. Thousands were tortured and killed along the way by Japanese soldiers. The memorial march is conducted in honor of the heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II, sacrificing their freedom, health, and, in many cases, their very lives.

I was lucky enough to participate for the second time this year, choosing the honorary 14.2-mile march over the more rigorous 26.2-mile marathon. Here are some of my observations from the march.

The fighting men and women of the United States Armed Forces are a formidable force. I was awed by the strength and stamina of these soldiers. Thousands of young men and women donned full military gear and made the 26.2-mile trek. I could barely lift the 35 lbs. packs these men and women carry much less haul it over the brutal terrain of WSMR for 26.2 miles. My hat goes off to all the participants.

After the race, my family headed to San Diego for a nice Spring Break trip. We stayed on Coronado Island, a beautiful spot that is also home to a major Navy base. While we played on the beach and ate ice cream at the Hotel Del Coronado, members of the Navy were out in the ocean and on the beaches conducting training exercises. The sight of the soldiers toiling away steps from us vacationers puts into perspective the sacrifices our troops make to protect our freedom. A heartfelt thank you goes out to all military members and veterans.

The memorial march was also a vivid reminder of the sacrifices the Greatest Generation made in the name of freedom, both at home and abroad. It was a special honor to witness survivors of the Bataan March present at the race. If it were not for the sacrifices of all people of the United States and the rest of the free world during WWII, we could easily be flying under a Nazi Germany or Imperial Japanese flag here in the United States today. The entire world would be drastically different if the free world had not stood up to Hitler and the Imperial Japanese. The march was a reminder to me of the importance of the United States as a global force for democracy. We must continue to fight against tyranny and oppression around the globe. The United States should and must continue to lead as the force for democracy and freedom in the world.

Finally, on a personal note, it was a great feeling to again don racing gear after over a year off from any “competitive” running. I had a great excuse to take a break from running (thank you Winn!), but I have the running bug and really needed this race to get back into the swing. The main satisfaction of running a race like Bataan is getting to the finish line knowing that you have trained your hardest and pushed your body to limits that at first seem unimaginable. My hope is to push even further and complete the entire 26.2 miles next year.

Thank you to all the volunteers, soldiers, civilians, police and sheriff’s officers that made this race possible for all of us.

Clark