4/17/2010–White Sands Missile Range, NM–Each year at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, thousands of men and women gather to participate in the Bataan Memorial Death March, a challenging march through the high desert terrain conducted in honor of the heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II, sacrificing their freedom, health and, in many cases, their very lives.
On Sunday, March 21, Capt. Donald Ells, commander of the Civil Air Patrol Maryland Wing's Fort McHenry Composite Squadron, joined this elite group of over 5,700 people, both military and civilian, to participate in his first ever Bataan Memorial Death March. Ells, who is an U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. in the 7th Intelligence Squadron, USAF, donned his airman battle uniform and his camelback to walk the 26.3 miles path.
Fortunately for the walkers, the temperature was only 63° which is about 10° less than the average for the day and it wasn’t as windy as usual.
Though two routes were available, Ells took the longer route that crossed dusty, hilly terrain and circled around a mountain before returning to the main post through sandy desert trails and washes. This was all accomplished at an elevation starting around 4,100 feet and climbing up to over 5,200. Ells stated, “The most difficult part was the 6-mile hill, but it was worth it to honor the survivors and fallen of the Bataan Death March.” He completed the 26.3 miles course in 8 hours 18 minutes and 37 seconds.
Each of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico were represented at the Bataan Memorial Death March. In addition, teams from the Canadian, British, and German militaries were present to honor their fellow American soldiers. American teams and individuals flew in from as far as the Korean peninsula to participate in this event. Additional information on the Bataan Memorial Death March can be found at www.bataanmarch.com.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 58,000 members nationwide. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and was credited by the AFRCC with saving 72 lives in fiscal year 2009. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and counter-drug missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 23,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. CAP has been performing missions for America for 68 years.
There are approximately 1,500 members of CAP in Maryland. Last fiscal year wing members flew 42 search and rescue missions and were credited with 31 finds. For more information, visit the Maryland Wing website at www.mdcap.org.
The Fort McHenry Composite Squadron meets weekly on Tuesday evenings at the Catonsville Armory, 130 Mellor Avenue in Catonsville, Md. Prospective members are always welcome. For more information or directions, visit the squadron website at www.ftmchenrycap.org.