A Louisville District engineering technician participated in the 75th anniversary of the Bataan Death March—a marathon which organizers refer to as “26 miles of high desert, 26 miles of pure perseverance.”
Engineering Division’s Mona Waldeck completed the 26.2 miles in just over seven hours—an accomplishment which took her through the New Mexico desert heat and sand and a one-mile sand pit at the course’s 22-mile marker. But according to Waldeck, her mission was to honor the fallen and thank the prisoners of war attending the event.
“I’m a veteran,” Waldeck said. “It is in recognition of veterans—to remember. Unfortunately, so many seem to forget.”
The march, held annually since 1990, memorializes the approximately 10,000 Americans and 58,000 Filipino servicemembers who defended the Philippines in World War II. In a battle which has been referred to as one of the worst atrocities in the war, the United States surrendered the Bataan Peninsula April 9, 1942. Japanese military forced these servicemembers to walk more than 65 miles to a prison camp through the Bataan Peninsula jungle without food or water.
The annual Bataan Memorial Death March commemoration, attended by many of the survivors of the march along with thousands of supporters from around the world, is held at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The 75th anniversary event brought a record-breaking 7,200 participants—capping out the number of event participants.
“I met six of the POW survivors,” Waldeck said in reference to the less than 50 remaining POWs. “I shook their hands. You just want to meet them and let them know how much you appreciate what they did,” said Waldeck.
One of the prisoners of war survivors was Ben Skardon, a 99-year-old veteran who did the first eight and a half miles of the race. When Skardon saw Waldeck wearing a Combat Veteran Motorcycle Association (CVMA) t-shirt, Waldeck said, “He asked me, ‘Are you a veteran?’ When I said, yes, he said, ‘I don’t want to shake your hand. I want to give you a hug,’ and he got out of his seat and hugged me.”
In addition to attending speaker sessions from POWs, Waldeck met a fellow CVMA member from New York who ran the marathon in honor of a friend’s grandfather. The man carried the veteran’s POW armband, the service member’s service photo and two of his medals of honor as a way to memorialize the veteran.
As another way to pay tribute, Waldeck requested a Louisville District coin from Louisville District Commander Col. Christopher Beck. She placed the district coin and a CVMA coin into the unit coin drop off. The 75th anniversary coin display will be permanently exhibited at the White Sands Missile Range Museum.
“I’m proud of Mona for participating in the event and adding the Louisville District coin to the Bataan Museum display,” Col. Beck said. “Her strength in completing this grueling marathon reflects the strong traditions we have in the district and a reminder to honor those who have given so much for our country.”
Waldeck has worked in the Louisville District since 2001. She served 12 years active duty including Germany and Forts Bliss, Bragg, and Huachuca. She served in Saudi Arabia and Honduras. She and husband David Waldeck, a retired Navy veteran and Louisville District construction representative at Fort Knox, also spent a year together in Afghanistan with the Corps in 2011.
“It was an absolute honor to participate in this event,” Waldeck said. Commenting on the Bataan Death March survivors she added, “We do it for them.”