The Get-Along-Gang, (from left to right) MAJ Edna Ashley, CPT Lori Kirkland, SSG Kimberly Balmores (in back), MSG Cecilia Chavez and CW5 Vicente Fernandez, competes in the first Camp Bucca Memorial Bataan Death March on March 21. The gang won the civilian light team category of the march.

“The Guardian Gazette”, March 2010

TF 515 sponsors inaugural Memorial Bataan Death March

 

By SGT Darlene Marsh

 

IRAQ — MARCH, 2010 — 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 March.

 

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.