Bataan Death March: Hurlburt Airmen pay tribute to fallen service members in 26.2 mile ruck sack march at White Sands Missile Range

White Sands Missle Range, N.M. -- Thousands of American and Filipino Soldiers were forced by the Japanese to march for days in the scorching heat with little sleep and little food and water, in April 1942, in a World War II event now known as the Bataan Death March.

When Soldiers fell behind they were killed, if they asked for water they were killed and those who did survive were forced to into prison camps.

These World War II heroes are honored by marchers from across the United States and other countries in the Bataan Memorial Death March that takes place annually on White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

The 26.2-mile march takes participants to elevations of 4,100 – 5,300 feet.

Two Air Commandos marched alongside more than 4,000 participants March 26.
Second Lt. Jeremy Coffman and Staff Sgt. James Tetrault, both from the 16th Communications Squadron, participated in the 26-mile march with 35-pound ruck sacks.

“I feel privileged to get a chance to honor the men of Bataan,” said Lieutenant Coffman.
“We got the chance to meet some of the veterans from Bataan and hear their stories before the march,” said Sergeant Tetrault.

Lieutenant Coffman and Sergeant Tetrault trained for this event by marching on the beach with a ruck sack, weight training and running, in the morning before work.

Even though they trained hard, the course still proved difficult.

“The first 10 miles you feel good. Then the elevation changes,” said Lieutenant Coffman. “At mile 15 you start to hurt, but they had a lot of veterans there to shake your hand. That was a real boast. I’m lucky that I had Sergeant Tetrault there, because we really had to rely on each other. This event was unlike anything I’ve done before.”

“The veterans were telling us to keep going” said Sergeant Tetrault. “And you have no option, they went through a lot worse conditions – it was very motivating.”

Lieutenant Coffman said he planned to do the event again next year and recommended it to anyone interested.

“We really emptied the tank on this march, are were sore for days after,” said Lieutenant Coffman. “Doing something like this is a hard feeling to duplicate.”

For more information on the Bataan Memorial Death March, visit www.bataanmarch.com.