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30th Bataan Memorial Death March attracts civilians, soldiers and supporters

The 30th annual Bataan Memorial Death March broke a record as 8,600 marchers hit the pavement at White Sands Missile Range in the brisk morning weather.

“We are the battling bastards of Bataan; no mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam,” recited Paul Kerchum, a 99-year-old Bataan survivor. “Nobody gives a damn!”

On April 9th, 1942, approximately 75,000 American and Filipino troops surrendered to the Japanese. In the days that followed, the of soldiers were forced to march as far as 65 miles. Historians estimate thousands died in the Bataan Death March, but an exact estimate is not known.

At the age of 99, Kerchum has an astounding memory of specific dates and names (his full interview is embedded below). The veteran told ABC-7 that the next generation must understand the events of World War II.

“The children need to know what happened,” Kerchum said.

Thousands of 21st century troops marched to remember Kerchum’s fallen brothers and other veterans.

“Today, I am honoring my uncle,” said Robert Vance, who marched with his wife, Cheryl, in memory of Staff Sergeant Marvin Judd.

“This is one fine example of how we’re honoring them,” said retired Marine Corps Lance Corporal Tim Horton, who lost a leg while deployed in Ramadi, Iraq.

Horton joined retired U.S. Army Sergeant Alexander Stelly, U.S. Marine Corps Master Sergeant Brett Baker and U.S. Army Sergeant Juan Arredondo.

The four men were all wounded during war. Together, they said they’ve found a brotherhood in the Wounded Warrior Project.

“A family of people who I don’t share blood with, but I would shed blood for,” Baker told ABC-7.

“I’m very proud to live in this country,” said Arredondo.

Every year, I am honored to cover the event in honor of my late grandfather, Amado Romero. He narrowly escaped the Bataan Death March, but was ultimately captured and sent to a Japanese internment camp.

Upon his rescue, my grandfather was only 98 pounds at 5’11”. Thankfully, he gained the weight back, married my grandmother, Ofelia Romero and had ten children!

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