Shields & Stripes Chairman to Participate in 2024 Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico

by | Feb 27, 2024 | News

Every year, people from around the country gather at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to complete the Bataan Memorial Death March. Their tagline, “More Than Just a Marathon,” appeals to those who want to support a noble cause by completing a most untraditional marathon involving walking or rucking through the desert.

Shields & Stripes Chairman of the Board Rory Berke was inspired to participate in this marathon by Mark Sullivan, a West Point classmate of S&S Ambassador General Scott Miller and noted philanthropist and supporter of veteran organizations. Rory’s son, Abraham Berke, will proudly march alongside his dad. They will step off together in the early morning hours of March 16, 2024, along with nearly 9,600 other participants.

Rory Berke, Chairman of the Board of Shields & Stripes

Rory Berke

Chairman of The

What Was the Bataan Death March?

During World War II, the strategic position of the Philippines came to the forefront of the Pacific theater, marking a critical phase of the conflict. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces swiftly moved to capture the Philippines, setting the stage for a critical confrontation.

The combined forces of the United States and the Philippines, comprising soldiers from various branches of the U.S. military, including the Army, Army Air Corps, Navy, Marines, and notably members of the 200th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard, mounted a staunch defense.

Survivors of the Bataan Death March pose for a photo.

Survivors of the Bataan Death March.

Despite their valiant efforts and enduring months of battle in harsh conditions—malaria-infested regions, severe food shortages, and fighting with outdated equipment—the Allied forces were compelled to surrender on April 9, 1942, after the Japanese reinforcements proved overwhelming. This marked the beginning of a grim chapter for the captured soldiers.

Following their surrender, the U.S. and Filipino soldiers faced the harrowing Bataan Death March—a forced march of approximately 65 miles to confinement camps across the Philippines under brutal conditions imposed by the Japanese captors.

The march, characterized by extreme deprivation of food, water, and medical care, and the subsequent internment, led to the deaths of thousands and immense suffering among the survivors. The prisoner-of-war camps further subjected the soldiers to horrendous conditions, with about one-third of the prisoners succumbing to health complications after their eventual liberation in 1945 when U.S.-Filipino forces recaptured the Philippines.

The impact of these events was profound, particularly on New Mexico families who lost many of their native sons in the battle, during imprisonment, or even after liberation due to health complications.

The legacy of these dark days is commemorated by the Bataan Memorial Death March, an event initiated by the Army ROTC Department at New Mexico State University in 1989 and now jointly sponsored by White Sands Missile Range and the New Mexico National Guard.

Bataan Memorial Death March Banner

Visit to register or learn more.

The Bataan Memorial Death March

What started as a tribute with about 100 participants has grown into an event attracting around 9,600 marchers from around the globe, both military and civilian, who tackle either a 14.2-mile or a 26.2-mile course.

Participants march for various reasons, whether personal challenge, competition spirit, unit camaraderie, or to honor a specific veteran or family member affected by the historical march. This memorial event marks a significant chapter in history and educates and reminds future generations of the sacrifices endured by those who fought in the Philippines during World War II.

Support Rory and Abraham

Rory is a proud supporter of the Bataan Memorial Death March and is raising additional funds for the upcoming Shields & Stripes program, where eight military veterans/first responders will undergo a top-tier rehabilitation program. If you feel compelled to support Rory and Abraham, please donate to Shields & Stripes. Every dollar goes towards helping our mission.

About the Author

  • Mike Bires

    Mike Bires has over 30 years of military and law enforcement experience. He is the developer of the Shields & Stripes website and works with the Marketing Team to advance the organization's digital presence.