ROTC cadets travel to NM to pay tribute

Christina Judy, Staff writer

Members of Mercyhurst’s ROTC program traveled to New Mexico to participate in the Bataan Memorial Death March.

The group rucked 26.2 miles to commemorate the Filipino and American troops who were forced to march 65 miles to prison camps during World War II.

The event took place on Sunday, March 19, and consisted of six Mercyhurst students who were captained by a student from Gannon University.

The Gannon student was Claire Kiphuth who pioneered this team and created a training plan that would allow the cadets to take part in the Bataan Memorial Death March.

The ROTC participants prepared for six months by rucking four miles during a weekday and engaging in a Saturday ruck that began at eight miles, but eventually became 22 miles.

At the conclusion of their training, they completed over 200 miles, which instilled confidence in each of them for their trip.

In addition to their rucking, the team swam on occasion to prepare for the altitude changes they would encounter on their terrain.

The Bataan Death March occurred in April of 1942, where the Japanese forces drove surrendered Filipino and American soldiers to march while they endured brutality, starvation, and disease during their trek.

The march spanned from Mariveles, which is on the southern border of the Bataan peninsula in the Philippine island Luzon, to San Fernando, which is in central Luzon.

Approximately 75,000 American troops were rounded up by the Japanese and sent on this five-day march, during which they suffered from beatings at the hands of their captors.

When soldiers became too weak to continue walking, the Japanese stabbed them with their bayonets. Those who did survive were transported to San Fernando to Prisoner of War (POW) camps, where they faced even more instances of brutality and disease.

The magnitude of this event in history is remembered by the Bataan Memorial Death March and the opportunity to express gratitude to the troops who experienced this tragedy was taken by Mercyhurst’s ROTC members.

During their trip, the ROTC members met the only remaining survivor of the Bataan Death March who is 103 years old.

“He was a great reminder as to why we are doing this march. To remember these soldiers who made the final sacrifice truly impacted me,” ROTC cadet Lilly English said.

The ROTC cadets were able to recall the importance of their service to this country and the sacrifices previous military personnel made through this experience.

Even on this memorial march, during the difficult physical challenges confronted on the terrain, the cadets were able to ground themselves by taking in the beautiful views and reminding themselves of the preparation they did so that they could honor those who suffered in the Bataan Death March.

There is a creed written in remembrance of the troops of the Bataan Death March. It is called the Battling Bastards of Bataan Creed and it leaves a haunting thought about how the suffering American soldiers felt during that time.

A particularly striking phrase was “No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam,” which resonated with many of the cadets who honored the memory of these soldiers.

This was a great event for the cadets and it will have an impact on them forever.