The following was selected from José
Armas’ “Of our heroes: poetic Jordan, persistent Popé
and the patriots at Bataan” which appeared in the
Albuquerque Tribune on January 19, 1999.
The Bataan Veterans of Albuquerque have just launched the
Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Foundation. Commander Agapito Silva
says, “The foundation will create a perpetual memorial to remind
people of the tremendous sacrifices of our solders for their
The 79-year-old Silva was taken prisoner by the Japanese during
World War II. He reminds us, “Of the original 2,000 New Mexican
survivors of the Bataan-Corregidor experience, fewer than 90
survive, and they are dying quickly.”
Those cynics who say there are no heroes might look at these men
and find new inspiration. These were young kids, some just out
of high school, who joined the National Guard. They became
After ferocious, bloody battles that included hand-to-hand
combat, they were captured by the enemy. They endured three and
a half years of unspeakable brutalities that killed off half of
the nearly 80,000 U.S. and Filipino prisoners.
These were ordinary individuals driven into extraordinary
circumstances, and they produced extraordinary deeds of heroism.
Those who survived came home and built their lives.
Every man, woman and child — every cynic — should have an
opportunity to hear their stories. Soon they will be gone, and
we still haven't preserved all their histories and their legacy.
“There is so much more to be done,” says Commander Silva, who
has never stopped serving his country.
I can’t listen to their stories without knowing I am in the
company of heroes.