The finish line with their finishers’ medals. Left to right: Stacy Craver, COL Ku, COL Ku’s sister, and Ms. Craver’s husband. (Photo courtesy of COL Ku)
We’re the battling bastards of Bataan; No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam. No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces, No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces And nobody gives a damn.1
The theme for this issue of the Army Lawyer is Readiness. The undercurrent of the issue focuses on memory—memory of the atrocities committed by the Nazis, but also memory of those who have fought for what is right. This issue of the Army Lawyer reminds us of the sacrifice of those who have gone before us and that we must be ready to give the same. I completed my first Bataan Memorial Death March in the Military Individual (Light) division in 2019. The event honors and remembers the sacrifice of the thousands of Filipino and American Soldiers who were captured by the Japanese military in World War II and forced to march over 65 miles to prison camps.2 Those who survived faced even more torture. Every step of the 26.2-mile trek, I felt the history, patriotism, and emotion embodied in the memorial march through the sand and rocky mountain terrain.
To prepare for this memorial march, I knew I had to be physically, mentally, and emotionally ready. The internet offered information on how to prepare for the physical aspects of the march. Having completed other marathons, I understood the physical and mental demands of the mileage. I incorporated rucking with boots and weights into my weekly long runs. After a recurring injury forced me to switch from the heavy to the light division, I relied on CrossFit to prepare my body for the physical demands of the mileage. Past participants of the memorial march also shared their stories with me, and reading the book Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath helped me to imagine, even if barely, the real experience.3 While these stories were inspiring, nothing compared to the actual experience of being out there, talking and listening to the marchers and runners, each with their individual motivations for embarking on this journey. Their stories instill humility in anyone willing to listen, and motivate others to return to honor the human spirit on display in abundance that day.
Top Ten Reasons to Complete the Bataan Memorial Death March
10. Human Resiliency. See what you are capable of and build more of it.
9. Gratitude. Look around and remind yourself how much you have to be thankful for.
8. Live the Running Dream. Put one foot in front of the other and just do it. This 26.2-mile event is unlike any other.
7. “Be the Voice.” A proud Marine mom said it best when asked to share her motivation for doing this march year after year:
Be the voice. Thank those who serve, honor the wounded, and never forget the fallen by sharing their stories with others. I have carried the pictures and various items given by families with me on all of my endeavors—across the desert, to the East Coast, West Coast, and in between, as well as to other countries; sharing their stories, saying their names as their families have requested so that others may know them—by both face and name. There is no monetary gain from what I do; my heart and my physical ability to do this is all I that have to give to the families, many who are my friends, of the fallen and to the injured Marines I’ve come to know. I hope that by participating in events that I am passionate about, I can inspire others to be the voice.4
6. Honor the Heroes. Joseph Campbell once said, “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”5 We get to honor those who can no longer be there, those who survived, and those who didn’t. You have the rare opportunity to meet the survivors of the actual Bataan Death March, and there won’t be many more years where survivors are there to meet you.
5. Never Forget the Sacrifices. This event is a humbling reminder of the price of freedom and that our freedom should not be taken for granted. It is awe-inspiring to be in the presence of people who endured so much.
4. Unity. During a time of much discord, you get to see people from all backgrounds come together and share a sense of community, pride, patriotism, and overall accomplishment, regardless of their finishing time.
3. Reminder. A glorious reminder that you are alive.
2. Future. Set an example for the future generation that sometimes the most rewarding things that we do are hard.
1. You Get to. Remember that, if you choose to embark on this journey, you get to do this, and you get to go home at the end of the journey. Many of the Battling Bastards of Bataan did not. They paid the ultimate price of freedom so that you get to go home.
The 2020 memorial race was cancelled due to COVID-19. I hope to have the opportunity to participate again in 2021. Until then, I continue to remember their sacrifice every time I lace up my shoes and value the increased physical, mental, and emotional readiness this event offers to those who take up the challenge. TAL
COL Ku is a Military Judge in the Second Judicial Circuit at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
1. Michael Norman & Elizabeth M. Norman, Tears In the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath 128 (2009).
2. Bataan Memorial Death March, https://bataanmarch.com/about-bataan/ (last visited Nov. 14, 2020).
3. Norman & Norman, supra note 1.
4. Message from Marilyn Olson, Founder of Bataan Memorial Death March Training Group on Facebook to author.
5. The Power of Myth: The Hero’s Adventure (Alvin H. Perlmutter, Apostrophe S, & Public Affairs Television June 21, 1988), https://billmoyers.com/content/ep-1-joseph-campbell-an d-the-power-of-myth-the-hero%E2%80%99s-adventure-audio/.