Over the past weeks islanders may have seen a man in military uniform walking the roads around Lopez. This was no military patrol. Rather an intense training routine designed to prepare him for a commemorative march.
The man was Tom Weber, US Army National Guard, Iraq veteran, husband, father and Lopezian. The march he was preparing for, and has recently returned from, was the 26.2-mile salute to those involved in the historic 1942 Bataan Death March.
The death march occurred as part of the Battle of the Philippines, and was a grueling journey imposed upon approximately 75,000 American and Filipino soldier/P.O.Ws by Japanese captors.
Fast forward to 2010 and move from the Philippines to New Mexico, and you have both civilians and the military marching to remember that original ordeal.
“It was up in the mountains and sands of the White Sand Missile Range,” said Weber, describing the tough terrain. “I did it under the ‘military heavy’ category which meant I carried a 35 pound rucksack.”
Weber trained for three months before, working up to a 20 mile loop around Lopez two weeks before the march. Starting at 7 a.m. and subsisting only on bananas, GU (an energy gel) and energy bars, Weber said “I basically marched the whole time. At mile 13 I took a sock-changing break, you have to keep your feet from getting ripped up.”
In his division Weber came in 135 out of 376 with a time of 7.56 hours. Although an achievement, he cites the most important part of the march to be the respect paid to the veterans. “On the way out they had a row of indiduals from the death march, we shook their hands on the way out, it was emotional.”