100 year old Bataan survivor Ben Skardon participates in annual Bataan Memorial Death March

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100 year old Bataan survivor Ben Skardon participates in annual Bataan Memorial Death March

I’ve heard about this in the past when the guys from Ranger Up did it, but never actually knew what it was until I saw this story last week:

Dawn had yet to break, but thousands of people had already gathered at White Sands Missile Range Sunday for the 29th annual Bataan Memorial Death March.

This year's march saw the largest number of participants -- nearly 8,500 -- an 18 percent increase over last year. Some wore military uniforms carrying 35-pound rucksacks while others chose colorful red, white and blue tutus. For retired Col. Beverly "Ben" Skardon, he selected an orange shirt -- in honor of his alma mater Clemson University -- and a white fedora.

At 100 years old, this would be the 11th memorial march in 12 years for Skardon, a Bataan Death March survivor. His participation makes him not only the oldest marcher but the only survivor to ever walk in the event.

"(Participating in the march) means a lot to me personally because that march and the men hang heavy on me. I've never forgotten it," Skardon said. "While I walk, it seems to me, my memory flashes back, and I get emotional."

The march requires participants to make their way through 14.2 or 26.2 miles of the high desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range.

I’m less than ½ his age, but the thought of walking 14.2 miles (or God forbid the whole 26.2) makes my knees ache just pondering it.

Clemson University has a great video about Skardon and his Clemson ring, along with the original march:

Colonel Skardon is an amazing and heroic man, and a fine representative of the second best school in South Carolina (gotta go with my Alma Mater, The Citadel here, it’s in my blood.)  I hope Mr. Skardon gets to do it for at least another 10 years!

If you are interested in walking in it next year, you can register or get more information HERE.

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Everybody hears about Pearl Harbor and the start of WWII. Many BRAVE men, allies and especially Filipinos, delayed the advance of the Japanese military at the Philippine Islands even after General MacArthur left to help in the larger military effort in the Pacific. These brave men surrendered when they could not be resupplied and were running out of food and ammunition to be able to continue to resist the Japanese military. After surrendering they then had to endure (survive) a death march to then become POWs. It is good that today's generation remembers. I hope this memorial event continues to grow.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.