Bataan Death March survivor Valdemar De Herrera, seated second from left, surrounded by his family and event participants.

Bataan Memorial Death March participants recognized at awards ceremony

Bataan Memorial Death March participants were recognized during an awards ceremony March 16 at the White Sands Missile Range Frontier Club.

The march is conducted in honor of the heroic Service Members who defended the Philippine islands during World War II.

WSMR Executive Director Vincent Liddiard recognized Bataan survivor Valdemar De Herrera, 105, and members of his family who were in attendance.

Liddiard and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Jamal N. Latore presented awards to two teams during the recognition ceremony.

The ROTC cadets from Norwich University took 1st place in the ROTC Heavy Division Team.

They were the first ROTC Team in the Heavy Division to cross the finish line with a time of 5 hours 14 minutes and 4 seconds.

Cadet 1st Sgt. Ethan Shaw said the cadets are from different branches, but they came together to form a team.

“It is really special knowing that we were able to run this race in honor of all those who went through the actual Bataan Death March,” Shaw said. “It was very motivational to run in their honor.”

The NMSU ROTC team took first place in the ROTC Light Division Team.

“Our training was up and down throughout, and we had to substitute a few people in (during training) due to injuries but we persevered and pushed through it,” said Micah Sparks. “It was tough out there but at the end of the day we all finished as one.”

Liddiard said the rest of the medals will be mailed out.

Liddiard then thanked volunteers, the FMWR staff, security teams, medical teams, and water point volunteers for their work.

He also recognized the family of Col. (retired) Gerald Schurtz, who passed away in November of 2023, for his contributions to the event.

Bonnie Schurtz said her husband was part of the Bataan event committee for 30 years and both she and her husband participated in the march starting in 1995 in memory of his father, Paul Schurtz, who died in a hell ship.

“My husband and I did 23 marches.”

Now their sons and grandchildren continue the tradition.

Bonnie said this year was extra sad because her husband was not present, and the family had decided before his death to sponsor the notorious sand pit on the route.

“He always made sure the sand pit was tough.”

By Miriam Rodriguez

WSMR Public Affairs