SOU’s ROTC program honors WWII Bataan marchers
Southern Oregon University’s ROTC program paid respect to – and drew inspiration from – one of the most notorious incidents of World War II’s Pacific Theater when 19 cadets and cadre participated recently in the Bataan Memorial Death March 2023 – a 26.2-mile “ruck” with 35-pound backpacks from Central Point to the SOU campus.
SOU’s “Raider Company” of the U.S. Army ROTC chose the local route after coming up short on fund-raising to send participants to an annual Bataan event at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The local ruck, mostly along the Bear Creek Greenway, became a virtual counterpart to the New Mexico event – which bills itself as “26 miles of high desert, 26 miles of pure perseverance.”
“Twenty-six-point-two miles was the distance that was dictated by the Bataan Memorial Death March event and not chosen by SOU ROTC itself,” said SOU ROTC Cadet Maribett Malubay. “The cadets were inspired, and wanted to take on the challenge in order to honor those that did the 65-mile forced march on Bataan.”
The SOU cadets and cadre – ROTC instructors, staff and facilitators – also turned their efforts into a local benefit, by using canned food to reach their 35-pound ruck weight and then donating their load after the march to the SOU Student Food Pantry.
The historic Bataan Death March occurred after about 75,000 U.S. and Filipino soldiers surrendered to Japanese forces on April 9, 1942. Thousands died as they were marched for several days and about 65 miles through scorching Philippine jungles to confinement camps, where they suffered at the hands of their captors until 1945, when U.S. and Filipino forces recaptured the lost territory.
This year’s commemorative event at the SOU was the final term project for seniors in the ROTC program, who took responsibility for planning, coordination and preparation. They organized 6- to 12-mile training rucks each Friday for several weeks leading up to the March 19 main event, planned the route and arranged checkpoints where participants could stop for food, water or rest breaks.
“Through the blood, sweat and tears, Raider Company finished strong, with positive attitudes and huge smiles on their faces,” Cadet Malubay said.
All 19 cadets and cadre who signed up for the voluntary event completed the 26.2-mile course – all but two of them completing the marathon distance for the first time.