It is a privilege and an honor to represent the American Ex-Prisoners of War for the state of New Mexico. This historic monument commemorates the lives of the brave and courageous men who served in the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery during World War II.

 

It is said that “a man is not dead until he is forgotten.” The Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Foundation of New Mexico has established a memorial that will serve and stand as a perpetual, silent reminder of the New Mexico sons who hold the distinction of being the most highly decorated men of battle during World War II.

 

The long anticipated honor for the courageous heroes now becomes a reality. Each family son’s name appears on the memorial, recorded for posterity as a testimony to the admirable human spirit that in difficult conditions never lost its moral strength and righteousness.

 

The legacy we leave comes with the high price of being Prisoners-of-War for three-and-one-half years — from April 9, 1942 to August 15, 1945. Upon unconditional surrender, the indescribable horror began when we were forced onto the infamous Bataan Death March to Camp O’Donnell, the first of many prison camps that would be our homes.

 

As a survivor, I know that every American POW holds the torch of freedom very high. I feel that it is my personal responsibility to help educate students about this experience. In fact, the first question I ask them is, “In your American history textbooks, is there any mention of the war in the Philippines?” The answer is always, “no.”

 

Because of a united front comprising courageous men and women, our wounded nation eventually regrouped. Many fought and died so all Americans can enjoy their freedom. Sixty years later, we now honor them with a memorial for the world to see and remember.

 

We are fortunate to live in the United States of America.  This is a country that will continue to honor its military veterans with dignity and pride.  A dream becomes a reality today and an important promise has been kept.

 

Alexander H. Mathews, H Btry. 200th CA(AA)

New Mexico 2001-2002 State Commander

American Ex-Prisoners of War

April 7, 2002

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