News: Vigilant Warriors return after competing in Bataan Memorial Death March
Story by Sgt. Debra Cook
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba -- About 30 Soldiers from the 525th Military Police Battalion, along with spouses and friends, were gathered at Ferry Landing with balloons and signs waiting to greet the five Soldiers returning home who represented Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in the 25th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March held at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
The five Soldiers that represented the GTMO team, Vigilant Warriors, were: Sgt. Jay Linderman, 189th Military Police Company, Sgt. Ryan Padgett, Headquarters Company, 525th Military Police Battalion, Staff Sgt. Michael Ovalles, 491st Military Police Company, 2nd Lt. Cody Simula, 189th MP Company and Spc. Robert Silva, 491st Military Police Company.
The Bataan Memorial Death March is held once a year to honor service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II. There are two different courses to compete in: the light course is 14.2 miles and the heavy is 26.2 miles. There are 22 different divisions from ROTC, civilian, male, female or co-ed just to name a few. A previous team from the 525th placed first in the military co-ed heavy-weight (ruck) division. This year, GTMO’s team, The Vigilant Warriors placed second in the military co-ed heavy category and third overall.
“I think the aspect of being able to compete as a team makes it a whole experience and makes it a lot better,” said Simula. “It makes the time go by faster just working with each other and trying to keep each other up and keep each other motivated moving through the challenges of the event.”
The Soldiers arrived at Ferry Landing, greeted by well-wishers. Clapping and congratulations filled the air as each Service member was greeted. The five-Soldier team stepped off the boat as one, and it was apparent that teamwork was the pinnacle of their success.
“Pretty much everybody came along to help each other out,” said Army Sgt Jay Lenderman. “Whether it was words of encouragement or Sgt. Padgett’s music, we were able to push each other through it and talk the entire time.”
Each year survivors of the Bataan Death March attend the event, which is a part of the motivation too. “It was a pretty awesome experience,” said Simula. “Just to see them and have them be there, just knowing what they went through and we did in honor of them.”