MACON – Ten cadets in Mercer University's ROTC program participated in the 26th annual Bataan Memorial Death March marathon on March 22 in White Sands, New Mexico.
The marathon honors the brave group of World War II soldiers who defended the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines. The 26.2-mile course through dusty and hilly desert terrain, around a small mountain, and back through the desert makes for one of the toughest races in the nation. The experience is intended to replicate, in part, that which the soldiers endured on their long trek through the Philippines.
"The trip from start to finish was phenomenal and one that our cadets will undoubtedly never forget," said Maj. Cynthia Warren, assistant professor of military science at Mercer. "The highlight of the trip was the cadets interacting with the nine survivors of the 1942 Bataan Death March prior to the start of the race. A close second was the look of accomplishment on their face upon completion of the marathon."
Those participating on behalf of Mercer included:
- Joel Aguilar, a senior from Valdosta who is majoring in biology with a minor in military science
- David Oh, a senior from Duluth who is majoring in psychology with minors in military science and history
- Andrew Clanton, a junior from Macon who is majoring in history with a minor in military science
- Remington Dixon, a junior from Ellijay who is majoring in information technology at Middle Georgia State College and is dual-enrolled at Mercer to study military science
- Jackie Harmon, a junior from Tybee Island who is majoring in biomedical engineering with a minor in military science
- Sutton Milukas, a junior from Peachtree City who is majoring in political science with a minor in military science
- Kara Styers, a junior from Dublin, Ohio, who is majoring in both cultural studies and Spanish with a minor in military science
- Timothy Walker, a junior from Biloxi Mississippi, who is majoring in history with a minor in military science
- Gabriel Jones, a sophomore from El Paso, Texas, who is majoring in chemical commerce with a minor in military science
- John Savage, a sophomore from Macon who is majoring in chemical commerce with a minor in military science
Mercer's cadets partnered with cadets from Georgia Military College in Milledgeville to form four teams of five. Three of these teams competed in the heavy category, which meant each member carried a 40- to 50-pound rucksack filled with food to donate to the Food for the Hungry program. The top team finished eighth out of 42 ROTC teams and 14th out of 115 total teams.
The Army ROTC Department at New Mexico State University began sponsoring the memorial march in 1989 to mark an event in history that included many native sons and affected many families in the state. In 1992, White Sands Missile Range and the New Mexico National Guard joined in the sponsorship and the event was moved to the missile range.
Since its inception, the marathon has grown from about 100 to some 6,500 participants from across the U.S. and several foreign countries. While still primarily a military event, many civilians participate, as well.
Mercer's ROTC program was activated in 1947. Today, the program commissions officers into one of the 16 basic U. S. Army branches and into the active Army, U.S. Army Reserve and the Army National Guard. With military science instruction and associated activities, ROTC courses, which are open to all students as electives and without obligation, aim to develop leadership and managerial potential, provide an understanding of the requirements and organization for national security and instill a strong sense of personal integrity and individual responsibility.