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GMC ROTC Cadets Compete in 26th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March
Honoring our Past Heroes: GMC ROTC Cadets Compete in 26th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March
Contributed By: Captain Steven Aoyagi, Cadet Luke Torres, and Cadet Joshua Hall
On Sunday, March 22nd, fourteen Cadets from the Georgia Military College Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Program competed in the 26th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, NM. These young, future Army Officers trained for over 5 months for the event, and challenged themselves at the 30th Annual Army Ten Miler, Wounded Warrior 10k, and Soldier Marathon races along the way.
The Bataan Memorial Death March commemorates the World War II events of April 1942, when tens of thousands of American and Filipino Allied Soldiers were captured by Japanese Forces and forced to march for days through the jungles of the Philippines. Thousands of Soldiers died due to exposure, hunger, dehydration, or at the hands of their captives. In their honor, GMC Cadets rigorously trained and traveled across the United States to complete the 26.2 mile course.
Georgia Military College was well represented, and competing Cadets displayed the utmost pride, cooperation, teamwork, dedication, and leadership as they braved the hot, uphill, sandy, dry, 4,000-foot elevation terrain. Four teams competed in the ROTC Heavy Division, donning Army Combat gear and carrying backpacks filled with 35 pounds of food donations to be turned in to the Roadrunner Food Bank at the end of the March. These outstanding teams banded together for moral support, motivation, and at times, physical assistance. Along the way, our GMC teams were privileged to meet nine surviving veterans of the Bataan Death March. “The way the military units from across the Country were able to come together for such a patriotic event was very awe inspiring and showed me what it means to be a unit,” said 2nd Year Cadet Joshua Hall of his experience.
As ROTC Cadets, the GMC students who participated in the Bataan Memorial Death March are especially deserving of recognition for the academic, physical, and leadership demands made of them. Prior to competing in the event, Cadets voluntarily trained throughout the winter to include weekends, gradually increasing the distance of their workouts from 6 up to 20 mile foot marches. “The camaraderie was great and we knew we had to push each other to new physical limits we never knew we were capable of,” recalled Cadet Luke Torres. “Coming up with a team plan on how to tackle the 26.2 mile course, overcoming injuries, making quick decisions, and persevering definitely left me with valuable lessons learned.”
The Cadets of Georgia Military College’s “Old Capitol Guard Battalion” Early Commissioning Program arrived to New Mexico ready to compete, with the top team placing 8th out of 42 ROTC Heavy teams and 14th place overall of the 115 teams competing in the Heavy Category. They left with an enduring sense of fulfillment and the foot blisters to prove their determination. Cadet Joshua Hall reflected back on the march, saying, “It was physically demanding, yet it was an extremely rewarding experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. “
Georgia Military College Cadets are “all smiles” following the completion of one of the toughest Marathons in the US. As Teams, they trekked through the hot, sandy, and rough desert environment at 5,000ft+ elevation to include an eight mile uphill climb over and then around the backside of the Organ Mountains, in Southern New Mexico to complete the 26.2 mile marathon. GMC competed with 24 Cadets, with the GMC ROTC Heavy Team 1, finishing in 8th place of 42 ROTC Heavy Teams and in 14th place of 115 Heavy Teams from across the Army and United States. Each of the 20 Cadets who entered heavy category carried a 40-50 lbs. rucksack filled with food (over 700 lbs. total ) to donate to the Roadrunner Food Bank.
GMC Cadet Ranney shakes the hand of one of the survivors of the 1942 Bataan Death March, before beginning the 26th Annual Memorial March in White Sands, NM.
26 miles into the March, Cadets Ranney, Halpern, Daniels and McClure join arms to support one another as they struggle through the last .2 miles of the March.