Air Force ROTC Hosts Local Bataan Memorial Death March

April 1, 2012

Air Force ROTC Hosts Local Bataan Memorial Death March

VALDOSTA -- This weekend 14 cadets from Valdosta State University's Air Force ROTC Detachment 172 and three civilians will participate in the second local Bataan Memorial Death March. Participants will walk 26.2 miles down the streets of Valdosta carrying 35 to 50 pound sacks in remembrance of the thousands of American and Filipino soldiers who became prisoners of war in the Philippines during World War II.

Participants will meet at 4 p.m. Friday, April 6, in front of North Campus and walk 13.1 miles north toward Moody Air Force Base. They will meet at the same time and location the next day to walk the remaining 13.1 miles. Cadet Second Lt. John Phifer, organizer for this year's local march, said that participants have been training for the march since October 2011.

The Bataan Memorial Death March honors the soldiers responsible for the defense of the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines. According to the Bataan Death March website, the soldiers fought in a malaria-infested region, surviving on half or quarter rations with little or no medical help. They fought with outdated equipment and virtually no air power.

“Approximately 78,000 U.S. and Filipino soldiers were captured by the Japanese Imperial Army and forced through the Philippines as prisoners of war,” said Phifer. “They were shown no mercy as they marched. They were beaten and tortured, and some were shot and executed for no reason.”

The first ever Bataan Memorial Death March was organized in 1989 by the Army ROTC program at New Mexico State University. In 1992, White Sands Missile Range and the New Mexico National Guard joined the ROTC program in sponsorship of the event and it was moved to the missile range. Since its inception, the march has grown from about 100 to some 5,200 marchers from across the United States and several foreign countries. While still primarily a military event, many civilians choose to take the challenge.

In previous years cadets from Detachment 172 have attended New Mexico to participate in the national march. However, they have been unable to attend in recent years due to limited funds and resources.

Last year, Cadet Second Lt. Nick Sternitzy organized the local march in hopes of increasing awareness of the fallen soldiers. Sternitzy had participated in the New Mexico march two years prior and became inspired to share the experience with the Valdosta community.

For more information about the local march, call the Air Force ROTC Detachment 172 at 229-333-5954 or e-mail the office at