By SGT Darlene Marsh
It was a
cool March morning in Iraq when over 85 US Forces and civilians
stood at attention and recited the Pledge of Allegiance at the
opening ceremony of the first Camp Bucca Memorial Bataan Death
To honor its heritage, Task Force 515 — along with the MWR
activity — sponsored the inaugural march. Unlike the annual
event at White Sands Missile Range, which is 26.2 miles, the
Camp Bucca Memorial Death March was 13 miles.
After the pledge, LTC Nava, the TF 515 commander, stood before
the eager participants and related the unit's history. For those
experiencing the march for the first time, he explained why some
make the gruesome trek. "Marchers come to this memorial event
for many reasons — personal challenge, the spirit of competition
or to foster esprit de corps in their unit. Some march in honor
of a family member or a particular veteran who was in the Bataan
Death March or was taken prisoner of war by the Japanese in the
Philippines," LTC Nava said before he started on the 13 mile
march around and through Camp Bucca.
Not all of the 85 U.S. participants were from Camp Bucca. One
Soldier traveled from COB Basrah to participate in the March
with his wife. SPC William Anderson with the 308 BSB traveled a
few hours by convoy to march with his wife, SSG Jill Walling,
who is stationed at Camp Bucca. This was the first time either
of the had participated in the Memorial Bataan Death March.
CPT Michael Calhoon was the first 515th member to pass the
finish line. This is not the first time he has participated in
the memorial death march. When asked why he continues to march
each year he explained, "At first it was a physical challenge
but then gained more meaning. After serving with this unit, it
is to honor our lineage."
Honor and esprit de corps is what it is all about.