For a 5th consecutive year, North Wind, Inc was a primary sponsor and participated with a team in the 20th annual Bataan Memorial Death March. The event, held March 29 at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, drew more than 5,300 participants from all 50 states and eight countries, including the Philippines, Germany, South Korea, Canada and the United Kingdom.
The grueling 26.2 mile march in the high desert honors a special group of World War II heroes who were responsible for defending the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines. They fought in a malaria infested region, surviving on half quarter rations with little or no medical help, outdated equipment and virtually no air support. Unable to hold off the Japanese, over ten thousand Fil-American forces were forced to surrender and march 65–100 miles for up to 10–12 hours a day in 100+ degree heat, many beaten and killed by Japanese troops. Survivors were taken to Japanese prison camps where torture and implacable conditions continued. Of the ten thousand troops taken, less than four thousand survived. The Bataan Memorial Death March pays tribute to these selfless troops.
This year’s opening ceremony included a roll call of death march survivors that were attached to the New Mexico National Guard, 200th and 515th Coast Artillery units. A number of Bataan survivors met marchers at the starting line to shake hands in a show of gratitude to those who were marching in their honor.
North Wind Senior Vice President Bruce Miller, who participated in the 2005 march and was in attendance for the 20th annual event, met with Bataan Death March survivor Mr. Ben Steele to view his Bataan Death March paintings. Bruce stated, “It was an honor to meet Mr. Steele and see some of his paintings and to hear his firsthand account of the death march, as a prisoner at Camp O’Donnell, and working in Japanese coal mines as a prisoner of war. “It was of also of special significance for the North Wind Team to meet the surviving veterans of the Bataan Death March and thank them for their service to our country. Each year there are fewer Bataan veterans and their presence at this event is inspirational to the participants and reminds us that we are here to pay tribute to the sacrifices of both the surviving veterans and those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.”
Members of North Wind’s 2009 Death March Team were Tony Ruhlman and Greg Kinsman (Greenville SC office), Erik Whitmore (Denver office), and Keri Evans (Salmon, ID office).
More information on Mr. Ben Steele and his artwork depicting the Bataan Death March are available athttp://www.artmontana.com/article/steele/