Ogles Completes Death March

First Lt. Kimberly (Ogles) Hadley, a 1998 graduate of Boise City High School, finished the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, N.M., on March 21. The event was a challenging 26.2-mile march through high desert terrain. The race honors the heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II, sacrificing their freedom, health and, in many cases, their very lives

Hadley's team, representing the Eighth Army-Korea, was the only team entered in the female military heavy division, which required each soldier to dress in military uniform and carry a 35-pound rucksack. Her team placed first in their division with a time of 7 hours, 41 minutes, 8 seconds (7:41:08). Each woman earned a medal and recognition at the closing ceremonies.

More than 3,125 civilians and soldiers participated in the annual march, started in 1989 by the Army ROTC Department at New Mexico State University. Teams from at least 43 states, Germany and Canada participated, as well as representatives from Great Britain, Germany and Australia who are stationed in the United States.

Hadley's team was comprised of the five women who placed first through fifth in a half marathon in Korea last month, including Capt. Heather Maki, PFC Veronica Mendieta, Capt. Christina Kirkland and First Lt. Melisa Bowser. Hadley entered the race as a personal challenge, having completed two marathons in the past, but never a marathon-length ruck march. Hadley's accomplishment comes after recovering from a broken neck sustained in an auto accident in Korea last summer.

“At first, I thought doing the race for the personal challenge was the most exciting thing,” Hadley said. “But once I started researching the Bataan Death March and reading the stories about the veterans and what they went through, it made it a lot more meaningful.”

Twenty-four Bataan survivors attended this year's race. One survivor actually walked eight miles in the event. Another survivor, David O. Telley, age 84, sat in full uniform at a water point along the race's course to welcome the participants. Hadley and hundreds of others were honored to shake the soldier's hand.

“(Meeting the survivor) was inspiring because it reminded me again that what we were doing was commemorating their march—theirs that was life or death—and we were doing it for more than just fun or personal reasons at that point.

“When I started feeling the blisters at Mile 20, I thought about how little pain it was compared to what they went through, and it almost made me choke up to think about it.”

“Courage is a quality God has seen fit to dispense with utmost care. The men of Bataan were His chosen favorites.” –Major General Edward P. King, Jr., United States Commanding General of Luzon Forces, 1942.

On April 9, 1942, while defending the Philippines, tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were surrendered to Japanese troops. The Americans were Army, Army Air Corps, Navy and Marines. They were named prisoners of war and forced to march nearly 60 miles through the intense heat of the Filipino jungles. Numbering more than 70,000 (Filipinos and Americans), it was the largest American army in history to surrender.

The surrendered soldiers already were sick, having survived malaria and other maladies with only one-quarter to one-half rations for months. If the soldiers fell during the march, they were executed immediately; their comrades helped carry them to keep them alive. They received little water and only the occasional handful of contaminated rice. It took them more than a week to reach their prisoner-of-war camp. Hadley considered her rucksack competition as an example of the extra weight borne by some soldiers to help others survive the horrific ordeal. Somewhere between 5,000 and 11,000 never made it to their prison camp.

“All of you honor these gentlemen by accepting this arduous personal challenge,” stated Brig. Gen. Robert Reese at the 5:45 a.m. commencement of the race. Brig. Gen. Reese is the commander of White Sands Missile Range, the location of the event.

More than two years later, the distressing story of the prisoners of war continued, even for those who survived the death march. To avoid the rescue of their prisoners, Japanese military loaded thousands of the soldiers on three ships with no Red Cross or POW markings. Unaware, American submarines and torpedoes sunk the ships, killing their own soldiers, mostly officers.

General MacArthur invaded Luzon on January 9, 1945. As the Americans advanced, they liberated those left in the POW camps. On March 4, troops entered Manila. But World War II did not end until September 2, 1945, after the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan.

An adage of the Bataan survivors relays their plight:

We're the battling bastards of Bataan

No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam

No aunts, no uncles, no nephews, no nieces

No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces

And nobody gives a damn.

The race ceremonies included an honorary roll call and playing of “Taps.” At the closing ceremony, the survivors were assured, “Look around you. Everyone here gives a damn.” The applause lasted for many minutes, a tiny tribute for the maximum sacrifice of life lost in protection of freedom.

“I was really grateful to have my family there to cheer me on, because when they read the poem that says ‘No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam,' you have to realize the veterans who went through that didn't have anyone except the guys who were with them,” Hadley said.

“I know people are proud of the soldiers we have in Iraq and the job they're doing, but we need to remember our veterans, too, because the sacrifices they made are not any less important than the ones today.”

As one Bataan veterans' group motto simply states: “Keep the faith in our country, as exhibited by those men and women who fought in defense of Bataan, Philippines, in 1942. Freedom is not free.”