As members of the military, it is a time-honored tradition to pay respect to those who came before us, and thanks to a push from Senior Master Sgt. Norma Przyborowski, the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Command and Control Squadron is doing just that.
Since 2017, members of the squadron have participated in the annual Bataan Memorial Death March, honoring the 75,000 United States and Filipino soldiers who became prisoners of war during World War II.
The Bataan Death March began April 9, 1942, when U.S. and Filipino soldiers surrendered after seven months of battle and became prisoners of war to the Japanese. During their imprisonment, soldiers were faced with extreme conditions, including deprivation from food, water and medical attention as they marched 65 miles to confinement camps through the Philippines. During the march, approximately 10,000 men died, 1,000 of them American.
“It’s part of history and it’s something we shouldn’t forget,” said Przyborowski. “We need to honor those people who were kept as prisoners of war as it serves as a reminder of what happened, and what could happen again.”
The memorial event, which was started in 1989, brings together military members and civilians with a challenging march at the White Sands Missile Range, in New Mexico. This march includes heavy- and light-weight divisions with the option to do a 26-mile course or opt for a shorter 14.2 miles.
“It’s an honor to be allowed to do this and be provided a chance to honor those prisoners of war,” said Tech. Sgt. Gabriel Ramirez.
The challenge of the difficult terrain at White Sands is just a fraction of the trials the soldiers faced during the 1942 march, and this thought encourages members to press forward during the event.
“These men didn’t have the choice to stop,” said Senior Airman Ashton Henry. “It’s all the more reason to keep pushing.”
This year’s march is held on March 17. Other Wyoming National Guard members also make the trek to New Mexico to participate.
“We hope to inspire more people to join us, represent our unit and get involved in remembering this part of history,” said Ramirez.