By Mackensie Moore, Iowa State Daily
During World War II, tens of thousands of Americans and Filipinos became prisoners of war after the Battle of Bataan, and they were forced to walk miles in the heat of the Philippine jungles to a prison camp.
Many people lost their lives during the trek, and for the past 25 years — as a tribute to the sacrifices made — marathoners, civilians and ROTC cadets have come together annually to pay tribute to the lives lost and the survivors by walking and running 26.2 miles in White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
For the past two years, Iowa State’s Army ROTC program has been sending cadets to participate in the Bataan Memorial Death March.
Among last year’s participating cadets were Cadet Isabella Hamby, senior in psychology, and Cadet Zachary Graham, senior in anthropology.
“[The marathon] is to acknowledge the sacrifices of those that did the Bataan Death March and what they had to endure,” Graham said.
While at the memorial marathon last year, Graham finished first place in the heavy division. He carried the most weight in his rucksack, but that accolade hasn’t gone to his head.
“It’s extremely humbling because while it’s nice to say ‘I got first place,’ it really isn’t about me,” Graham said. “It’s about the survivors and feeling grateful for what you have and not having to endure what they did.”
While cadets say the marathon is extremely challenging, the majority of them would like to go back and do it again.
Hamby said that meeting the survivors, hearing their stories and having them cheer the participants on made the entire process worth it.
“It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and while that’s a good thing because it was awful, I want to experience it again because of that sense of accomplishment,” Hamby said.
This year, nine cadets will be participating.
Cadet Raymond Kiemen, senior in interdisciplinary studies, is the Bataan cadet/officer in command for the cadets participating in this year’s memorial marathon.
The ROTC program finances and makes this opportunity available to ROTC cadets. They also set up training for cadets so that they can feel prepared for the experience.
As the cadet/officer in command this year, Kiemen has been in charge of training and making sure cadets are adequately prepared for the experience.
Kiemen said he has been pushing the cadets to fully understand the conditions by making them run more miles than in the past years’ training and by also having them carry more weight in their rucksacks.
This will be Kiemen’s third year participating in the Bataan Memorial Death March, and he said he keeps participating because of the euphoric rush he experiences after finishing the marathon.
“I just really enjoy participating in Bataan,” Kiemen said. “The experience really allows cadets to understand the sacrifices others have had to endure.”
A first time participant this year, Cadet Dani Hadaway, junior in biology, feels prepared mentally and physically because she remembers the true point of the marathon.
“It’s a memorial, so when you hit that wall of when you don’t want to run anymore, you think about all of the people that had no choice because they would have died if they stopped. So, I know I can do it,” Hadaway said.
The Bataan Memorial Death March will begin at 6:35 a.m. March 23 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.