LAS CRUCES – The tough desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range will be filled with thousands of people from all over the world Sunday, March 17, to march in the 30th annual Bataan Memorial Death March, which honors service members who defended the Philippines during World War II.
The challenging march began in 1989 to commemorate the Bataan Death March, the forcible transfer of tens of thousands of American and Filipino prisoners of war by the Imperial Japanese Army. The soldiers were marched for days under harsh circumstances in an unrelenting environment where many died. Survivors have been known to participate in the annual march to honor their fallen comrades.
Many of the American POWs were from New Mexico.
This year, veteran marchers will notice a few changes but for those who are new to the experience, this guide will help with everything that you need to know about this year’s Bataan Memorial Death March.
30th annual Bataan Memorial Death March
Time: Begins at 6 a.m. (All day event)
Date: Sunday, March 17
Place: Starts at Aberdeen Avenue at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR)
What you need to know:
White Sands Missile Range is about 26 miles east of Las Cruces, about a 31-minute drive. Take U.S. 70 E./N. Main St., follow U.S. 70 E. to N.M. 213 S. Take the exit toward Missile Range/Headquarters from U.S. 70 E. Turn right onto N.M. 213 S., and follow to White Sand Missile Range.
You are going to need proper identification to get into White Sands Missile Range. Visit the range’s REAL ID Act page for information.
About the course
From the start line, you will experience miles and miles of high desert. The routes go counterclockwise.
The 14.2-mile route is essentially the lower portion of the 26.2 mile course.
On the 26.2-mile course, the route proceeds northwest from Water Point 4/8, circling a small mountain known as Mineral Hill. Returning to Water Station 4/8, marchers travel south along the paved road covered earlier in the route. The course then veers west along dirt and sand trails, coming up the backside of the White Sands community and returning to the finish line.
The area know as the “Sand Pit,” featuring deep sand, comes after Water Station 9. But, be aware, the dirt trails elsewhere along the route can be sandy and dusty as well. This is particularly true of the stretch between Water Station 1 and Water Station 3.
According to the Bataan Memorial Death March Facebook page, a record 8,631 marchers and runners registered for this year’s march.
New location for packet pickup
There’s a new location for the Marcher Packet Pickup this year. It will now take place on March 14, 15 and 16 at the Las Cruces Convention Center, 680 E. University Ave.
Marchers report to the start area no later than 6 a.m.
Those not present for the opening ceremony or arrive late will NOT be allowed on the course.
Marchers can enjoy the opening ceremony taking place near the starting line via large Jumbotron screens courtesy of Army Entertainment.
Vendors will be parked near the starting area offering hot coffee and foods such as breakfast burritos. Coffee and food vendors will also be setting up for the day at the Post Exchange area.
Report to your designated corral
Be sure to report to your designated corral based on your registered division.
The Runner’s Corral is designated for all march participants who plan on running this marathon regardless of the division in which you’re registered.
Officials will escort each division to the starting line
Your time will not begin until you cross the start line.
Bataan March officials will escort each division to the start line in the following order: 1) Wounded Warriors; 2) Runners; 3) Military Light; 4) Civilian Light; 5) Military Heavy; 6) Civilian Heavy; 7) Honorary
For those who have entered a heavy division, you may take your rucksack off during the opening ceremony.
Food bank donations
If you are registered to march in a heavy division, you are required to carry 35 pounds in your backpack.
Consider using food to use as weight in your backpack, such as: beans, rice, canned food, macaroni, pasta and other nonperishable foods. You will be able to donate this food when you cross the finish line.
According to the Bataan web page, last year, 21,000 pounds of nonperishable food items were donated to Roadrunner Food Bank and Casa de Peregrinos after the Bataan Memorial Death March.
Don’t open bags of food and put the items into your own Ziploc bags. Unfortunately, items donated without their original wrapping or completely encased in duct tape cannot be reused. Ingredient labels must be present.
Owen Road and the Las Cruces Gate will be closed on the day of the march from 6 a.m. until later that evening.
Pre-march festivities will include a concert featuring Easton Corbin with his special guest Honey County at the Pan American Center at NMSU on Friday, March 15 at 7 p.m. Limited free tickets will be available to marchers when they pick up their Marcher Packet. Tickets are also available at www.ticketmaster.com
Other activities include free historical seminars presented by New Mexico State University ROTC cadets who conceived and conducted the first Bataan Memorial Death March in 1989, the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, the Bataan Congressional Gold Medal Presentation and a Meet the Bataan Survivors opportunity. For a complete schedule of events, dates and times visit The Bataan Memorial Death March Facebook page.
Want to volunteer?
Volunteer by going to the Bataan web page at www.bataanmarch.com
According to march organizers, volunteer support is still needed.
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