Service members representing every branch of the US Military marched in to officially begin the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Bataan Death March in World War II.
Active duty military personnel, veterans, along with families and advocates of WWII veterans, attended a ceremony aboard the USS Hornet in Alameda, California. This has been a tradition put on by the Bataan Legacy Historical Society led by Cecilia Gaerlan, whose father was a survivor of the death march.
"We should never forget what they sacrificed during World War II because freedom is not free and we should continue to fight for it to sacrifice for our country and our fellow man," Gaerlan asserted.
The story of the Bataan Death March and the involvement of Filipino soldiers fighting under the US flag have at times been overlooked in US history. But for many, it's a story that needs to be told and remembered, as about 75,000 Filipino and US soldiers endured a gruesome 60-plus-mile march after Japanese forces won the Battle of Bataan in 1942.
For Coast Guard Vice Admiral Michael McAllister, the world can take a lesson from the resilience and courage of these men from two different countries.
"While it's been 80 years since the Bataan Death March, we've been able to use that as a foundation to advance the relationship between the US and the Philippines, but really all of our allies and partners in the region," McAllister noted.
Fil-Am Brigadier General Steven McLaughlin also stressed that it is critical that the story and the people involved in the Bataan Death March never be forgotten. McLaughlin is the US Army's commanding general of the 100th Training Division in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
"History is very important I think as far as understanding where we were in the past and I think we learn a lot of lessons that we can apply today and at the same time a lot of reconciliation between all the peoples who were involved," McLaughlin said.
In San Francisco, the commemoration continues at the Philippine Consulate. From April 11 to April 30th, an exhibit entitled 'Profiles of Courage' will be on display, honoring the Filipino and American soldiers. It also describes the role San Francisco had during the war. It features photos, clothing, and other objects from the WWII period.
On the 80th anniversary of the Bataan Death March, the descendants of the veterans also paid tribute to all those who fought by tossing a wreath and flowers in the bay.
Since the end of the war, Filipinos and Fil-Ams from all over the world have enlisted to serve in the US military, honoring all those who have gone before them.