News: 'Warrior Diplomats’ endure 26.2-mile ruck march to remember fallen heroes
By Staff Sgt. Michael J. Dator
85th Civil Affairs Brigade
WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. – Six members of the 81st Civil Affairs Battalion, 85th Civil Affairs Brigade ‘Tribal Endurance’ Bataan Death March Team participated in the 23rd Annual Bataan Memorial Death March held March 25 at the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
“It was a humbling experience being able to come out here to endure just a fraction of what the survivors had to go through,” said Sgt. 1st Class Gerardo Lora, a civil affairs team sergeant and ‘Tribal Endurance’ member assigned to B Company, 81st CA Bn., 85th CA Bde. “I was in a lot of pain during the last part of the event, but I kept thinking to myself that it was nothing compared to what the actual death march must have been like.”
The 26.2-mile ruck march is held each year to remember the fallen heroes that died during the forcible transfer of more than 70,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war by the Imperial Japanese Army during WW II. The year 2012 marks the 70th anniversary of the actual death march.
The memorial event is the largest ever – drawing more than 7,000 participants with an additional 1,200 supporting volunteers. Marchers and runners from all over the world, some coming from as far away as Germany, descended upon New Mexico to compete. With soft sand and rolling hills in desert terrain, the event is considered one of the most challenging marathon-length courses in the nation.
“The hardest part was going through the sand dunes,” said Lora. “Every step I took felt like I was sinking deeper and deeper in the ground,” he said.
The ‘Tribal Endurance’ team officially placed third overall in the military male heavy team division with each member carrying a rucksack weighing at least 35 pounds. To meet the weight requirement, members of ‘Tribal Endurance’ packed their rucksacks with bags of rice, which were later donated to local charities after the event. The ‘Tribal Endurance’ team is also officially the highest placing male heavy division team based out of Fort Hood.
“Throughout training, our main focus was to push ourselves to the limit,” said Capt. Brian Garver, a civil affairs team leader and ‘Tribal Endurance’ team member assigned to B Company, 81st CA Bn., 85th CA Bde. “When we found out we placed in the top three we were a little surprised – but it goes to show how far you can drive yourself to do things you didn’t think you were capable of.”
To help prepare for the event, team members incorporated weight training, distance-running, cycling, and countless laps at the pool. To alleviate sore muscles, members of the team ensured to take regular ice baths after a hard workout. The hardest challenge for ‘Tribal Endurance’ was making sure the team could go the distance while carrying the prescribed weight. The team members worked their way up to the 26.2-mile distance using rucksacks weighing more than 60 lbs.
“We started at shorter six-mile and 15-mile distances using heavier rucks,” said Garver. “After getting used to a heavier load, the 35-pound standard for the event seemed a whole lot easier,” he said.
Participants of the event received a chance to talk to survivors of the Bataan Death March before they competed. The participants listened as survivors told of the horrors they lived through.
“I’ve seen and done thing during the march that you wouldn’t believe,” said Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Leonard L. Robinson, 92, a survivor of the actual death march in 1942. “It was literally hell - I saw many good people die in front of me, but I try not hold any grudges,” he said.
After the event, participants were provided with free food, water, and medical care. A closing ceremony was also held to pay one last tribute to veterans of foreign wars as well as those currently deployed overseas.
“Let’s not forget that there are tens of thousands of our service members who are deployed around the globe in places such as Afghanistan,” said Brig. Gen. John G. Ferrari, the commanding general of White Sands Missile Range. “Keep them in mind as we honor these veterans today,” he said.
Date Posted:03.28.2012 21:27
Location:WHITE SANDS, NM, US
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