We were thrilled when former Marine Captain Meg Sauvé joined Tutor.com’s military and federal programs team to travel across the country meeting National Guard and Reserves families at various events. These events are often held over the weekend in a local hotel. There is heat (or air conditioning) food and generally lovely, creature comforts. Meg has a great time meeting military members and letting them know that tutoring is indeed free to their family thanks to the Department of Defense MWR Libraries and the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration program. But this weekend, Meg was back in camouflage, a full pack of gear and even a gas mask in the hot New Mexico sun to honor WWII veterans and wounded warriors in the 23rd Annual Bataan Memorial Death March. We are so proud of our colleague. Below is her personal account of the event and its historical importance.
This past weekend I had the distinct honor to participate in the 23rd Annual Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, NM. This event is unique among endurance races: it honors those living veterans who survived Bataan and Corregidor during WWII, now numbering less than 100, and memorializes those who perished or have passed in more recent years. Sixteen of these veterans, most in their 90s, joined the nearly 7,000 participants for the event on Sunday, and some even walked the first eight miles of the race.
The Bataan also offered a different opportunity for the team with whom I raced, Team X-T.R.E.M.E. As a Veteran non-profit group which strives to honor, empower, and motivate wounded heroes, our goals coincided with those of the race organizers. Team X-T.R.E.M.E. completed the 26.2 mile course in the “Heavy March” category, wearing full uniforms, 40+ pound rucks, and gas masks throughout. Additionally, we welcomed our newest Warrior Athlete Sergeant Noah Galloway (US Army), a double amputee (left leg and left arm) who carried the exact same gear and also wore the gas mask.
Why would anyone march 26.2 miles in the desert heat while wearing a gas mask? We don the masks as a way to symbolize perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds and overcoming mental and physical obstacles. In this event we were honored to be able to bring awareness to thousands of wounded warriors from the Afghanistan and Iraqi campaigns as well as pay homage to the tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers who surrendered to Japanese forces on April 9, 1942. The Americans were Army, Army Air Corps, Navy and Marines. They were marched for days in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles. Thousands died. Those who survived faced the hardships of being a prisoner of war. The challenges which we experienced in the mask lasted for hours, while the brave heroes who survived the Bataan Death March and our nation’s current wounded warriors endure their challenges for a lifetime.