Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston –
More than 6,600 marchers began the 2016 Bataan Memorial
Death March at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., March 20 and Brooke Army
Medical Center’s team was among them.
The memorial march is held annually to honor those who
perished and the survivors of the Bataan Death March, which began April 9,
About 70,000 U.S. service members and Philippine soldiers
were forced to march approximately 100 kilometers north to Nueva Ecija and Camp
O’Donnell, a prison camp, in the scorching heat through the
Philippine jungles. Between 2,500 to 10,000 Filipino and 100 to 650 American
prisoners of war died before they could reach their destination. Marchers
select between 26.2-mile or 14.2-mile routes. Participants can choose to
participate in the heavy category, which requires them to carry a pack weighing
more than 35 pounds; or the light category, which has no weight requirements.
Several BAMC staff members participated in this year’s
Army 1st Lts. Chi Wing Pang and John Paul Dugyon, medical
surgical nurses on Wards 6W and 7T, respectively, participated in the military
male heavy category. Pang carried 55 pounds and Dugyon carried 48 pounds and
both finished with a time of 8 hours, 51 minutes.
“This event, to me, means a lot more than physical and
mental endurance,” Pang said. “Seeing the endless waves of wounded warriors,
veterans, active duty military and civilians march through the terrain all for
the same reason is motivation enough for anyone to keep marching on.
“Despite the dry desert surrounding us, the endless climb in
altitude at parts of the course, and the pain in my feet dragging out of the
sand, not many things can be as rewarding as finishing an event like this,” he
Dugyon credits Pang for motivating him to finish the march
last year and again this year.
“He helped push me and motivate me to get across that finish
line when my body screamed and said it couldn’t go one more step,” Dugyon said.
“I don’t think I would’ve completed Bataan without him last year, and I was
glad we went together again this year.”
Army 2nd Lt. Robert
Gooch, 3W medical surgical nurse, also competed in the male heavy category,
finishing in 7 hours, 36 minutes and Army 2nd Lt. Shelby Aleksick, 4W medical
surgical nurse, competed in the female heavy category, finishing in 6 hours, 50
The military light mixed team consisted of Army 1st Lt.
Phylesha Kemp, 6W medical surgical nurse; 2nd Lt. Autumn Augustine, 3W medical
surgical nurse; 1st Lt. Kira Brown, dietitian, chief of Patient Room Service;
Capt. Jose Capellan, commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Command; and Maj.
Trisha Stavinoha, chief, Outpatient and Community Nutrition. The team carried
light packs and finished in 8 hours, 23 minutes.
Army Capt. Brittney Piche, registered dietitian, Culinary
and Hospitality Branch, also participated with her husband in the civilian
heavy category, finishing in 7 hours, 25 minutes.
“Being a part of the Bataan Death March was a humbling and
unforgettable experience,” said Kemp. “I finished the course with even more
gratitude to the heroes who were forced to walk into captivity.”
Eleven of the original Bataan survivors were present at the
start of the march.
Augustine said prior to the Bataan march, she read “Tears in
the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath.”
“It definitely made the race a more humbling one,” Augustine
said. “It is easy to think that 26.2 miles in New Mexico is tough and
“However, the American and Filipino POWs were forced to
endure 66 miles without food or water, and were subjected to abuse and even
death. Knowing that they had suffered gave me the motivation to finish in their
honor,” she said.
“The remaining survivors are at least 92 years young,”
Stavinoha said. “I am glad to have been able to participate while there are
still some of these heroes remaining.”
Stavinoha offered the following tip to those who would like
to participate next year at the march.
“The POWs certainly did not train for the 60 mile forced
journey in the Philippines,” she said. “However, if you want to finish before
dark and be able to walk the next day, getting your feet prepared for the event
a few months ahead would be ideal.
“Marching 26.2 miles in sand is different than running 26.2
miles on the road. You use different muscles and wear your feet out differently
and marching with a pack adds another element.”