By Grace Kilgore – email@example.com
Death marching isn’t a part of most students’ weekend plans, but for a group of ROTC cadets, it’s exactly what they’ve been training for.
On Sunday, March 19, students from the CSB/SJU ROTC community chose to compete in the Bataan Death March Memorial Death March, a competitive marathon located in the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. This year, CSB/SJU sent three teams—male, female and co-ed. All three placed first in their respective categories.
The running course spans 26.2 miles of sandy terrain and intense heat, demanding strength and endurance from its competitors. Such difficult conditions make this race one of the most challenging in the nation, and it is a challenge for even the most trained and prepared participants.
However, such daunting characteristics did not hold any of the CSB/SJU competitors back. Instead, they provided nothing but motivation for the teams, challenging them to work harder, push farther and train longer over the course of their preparation for the race.
The marathon started in 1989 in honor of the Bataan Death March during World War II, where roughly 75,000 Filipino and American troops were forced to walk over 60 miles to prison camps. This act by the Japanese was considered a war crime. Not only were the prisoners forced to march in such difficult conditions, but terrible acts of physical abuse and violence were committed against the prisoners of war by the Japanese Imperial Army. Out of the 75,000 who marched, over 10,000 soldiers died.
Each year, the Bataan Death March Memorial commemorates the bravery of the fallen soldiers and the brutality they faced as prisoners. A few soldiers from the Bataan Death March still alive today attended the event and were recognized for their honor, service and sacrifice.
Today, the marathon has grown into a nationwide event. Both civilians and members of the military participate and compete. Around 6,500 individuals compete in the Bataan Death March Memorial, choosing to either compete as a team or as an individual in numerous offered categories. The CSB/SJU teams ran in the military light division.
Preparing for the race was no easy feat. All teams followed a strict training program beginning last November, consisting of running, cross-training and weight-lifting. As the race drew closer, the difficulty and length of the workouts increased.
Although training has been a physically demanding process, all team members regarded training with positivity, motivation and vigor.
“It really makes you work as a team,” said Eliza Zugg, CSB junior and Bataan runner. “I couldn’t have done it without the other girls that did it with me.”
Colton Busse, SJU junior and Bataan runner, reflected on the demands of training with a sense of accomplishment and honor.
“It makes the marathon itself more worth it,” Busse said. “When you get to the end of the race and shake the hands of the soldiers, just imagining what we did is nowhere near what they had to go through.”
Participating in the Bataan Memorial is a recruiting tool for the CSB/SJU ROTC program.
“Having that four-time champion under our belt furthers our validity of our success,” Matthew Tschida, SJU sophomore and Bataan runner said. “It’s something that no other ROTC program has done, and it has an impact on who we can bring into this school.”
Becca Dykhoff, CSB junior and Bataan Runner, shares the same sentiments regarding the teams’ successes and how they impact the ROTC community.
“It’s a big contribution to the program. It spreads awareness of our name and what we can do,” Dykhoff said.
For the CSB/SJU marathon teams, participating is much more than a recruiting tool or a gold medal. Remembering the fallen soldiers in the march and honoring their bravery and sacrifice is seen as much more important than placing first or getting their name on the leader board.
“We ran in tennis shoes and t-shirts, but some people run with uniforms on and 35 pounds on their back,” said Jackson Hunzelman, SJU junior and Bataan runner. “It’s cool to see all people doing this for one reason: to honor those soldiers and the two survivors who are left.”