The Utah Valley University ROTC from Orem, Utah took 7 cadets and one cadre to participate in the 2014 Bataan Memorial Death March. This was the 4th consecutive year that the school has sent competitors. This year, each team member competed individually in the full race in the heavy category (Military or ROTC). All of them finished in the top 15 in their categories, with Lydia Washburnwinning the Female ROTC Heavy category and Chase Stilson winning the Male ROTC Heavy. The group has been training since October 2013, and all finished in 6 hours or less – a truly impressive feat!
From UVU ROTC (left to right):
Justin Heidemann: 22, PFC Army National Guard
Jon Guerra: 24, CDT SMP with the ARNG
Chase Stilson: 24, E5 Sergeant in the Utah National Guard and MOS 12M Firefighter
David Cook: 23, CDT
Marcos Heaton: 24, CDT
James Peterson: 39, CPT, Utah Army National Guard
Gant Stokes: 24, CDT
Lydia Washburn: 23, CDT, team captain
Q) Why did you decide to march?
- Justin: I wanted to challenge myself because I had never done a marathon before.
- Jon: I wanted to do something challenging.
- Chase: I decided to march to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the Bataan Death march. I felt that I could honor them best by sacrificing a little of my comfort and completing the difficult march.
- David: For training purposes and to give proper respect to those that have sacrificed so much before me.
- Marcos: For the vets.
- Gant: I decided to march to support my school.
- James: I did it last year because I wanted to compete. In Spring of 2005 I hurt my back, knee, and neck in Iraq. I was told by many doctors I would have to leave the army and that I would never exercise again. I’ve worked hard to come back from injuries and Bataan is really a culmination of this. This year I wanted to do better than I did last year (7 hours, 52 minutes). This year I did in in 6 hours 25 seconds. Also after doing it last year, I felt I was honoring those who did the Bataan Death March, as well as comrades who died while fighting by my side.
- Lydia: Training for Bataan is an optional extracurricular activity with Army ROTC. I participated last year and had a lot of fun; this year I wanted to improve on my finish time and enjoy a fun road trip again.
Q) What was your biggest challenge during the march, and why?
- Justin: The biggest challenge I had during the march was cramping. I hadn’t hydrated the day before and paid for it during the march.
- Jon: The sandpit!
- Chase: My hardest challenge during the race was deciding to pack my own food/water, which would make my pack heavier, or using the food and water points provided. I decided to pack my own food and water in order to complete the course faster and not have as many frequent stops.
- David: I happen to sweat a lot, so the previous two years I had been cramping up pretty badly throughout the whole marathon. This year I tried to not cramp up once, which I didn’t and shaved off 2.5 hours off the previous year.
- Marcos: Staying motivated.
- James: Biggest challenge was pushing myself to go hard when I was exhausted. Also the hill was a challenge. I wanted to go faster, but knew I would burn myself out if I did (I did that last year).
- Gant: The sand pit; it was very challenging making through the deep sand.
- Lydia: My biggest challenge was the last 4 miles of the ruck. I slowed down a lot, and it was mentally tough to keep going. I just reached the point where my body wanted to quit, and I had to push through it. I wish I would have gone a bit faster there at the end, but I am pleased overall with how I did.
Q) What was the best moment that sticks out in your head, and why?
- Justin: The best moment for me was crossing the finish line with all the people cheering.
- Jon: Finishing! I got a rush and sprinted. I felt like a champ; I love the support the community puts out.
- Chase: Completing the course and shaking the hands of the surviving Bataan veterans at the finish line. It was humbling to go through a tiny portion of what they did and seeing a little of the trials they had to go through.
- David: Getting to meet and shake hands of the actual Bataan Death March survivors. They are such a good example of perseverance, dedication and motivation!
- Marcos: Meeting 5th Brigade ROTC Commander COL Dodson.
- James: Seeing I was at the halfway point and knowing it was mostly downhill from there.
- Gant: Reaching the halfway mark and realizing that I can do this.
- Lydia: The best moment was finishing the loop, coming back down the road and giving high-fives to all the people still heading up. That was a big morale booster.
Q) How does Bataan compare to the worst march you’ve done?
- Justin: That was the worst march I’ve ever done.
- Jon: It was painful but bearable. I had a better mindset than marches I had done before.
- Chase: This was definitely the hardest march/marathon I have ever competed in.
- David: As stated previously, I cramp up really bad while rucking, but with 2 years of experience doing the march, I trained accordingly and prepared myself better. This time I felt really good when I finished and I was 2.5 hours faster than the previous year.
- Marcos: It’s the best one I’ve done.
- James: This is the hardest march I have ever done. This year was easier than last year because I was more prepared and had better boots.
- Gant: This was much tougher. The longest I had done with the service was 12 miles.
- Lydia: The worst march I did was probably the 12 mile ruck at the end of basic training, but that’s just because I wasn’t in as good of shape as I am now.
Q) What would you recommend for first time marchers?
- Justin: Hydrate and practice.
- Jon: Start training early.
- Chase: First time marchers should make sure they break in the boots by rucking in them for multiple miles prior to the event.
- David: Practice, and stay hydrated!
- Marcos: Drink lots of water and make sure you are eating stuff constantly.
- James: Train hard beforehand. Walk up hills, jog down hills. Bring food, electrolyte pills, good socks, and Rocky Boots.
- Gant: Practice and keep yourself hydrated.
- Lydia: Pace yourself, and make sure you have done a few 15 milers in advance so that you know you can handle the distance.
Q) If you could sum up the march in one word, what would it be?
- Justin: Tough
- Jon: Rewarding
- Chase: Inspiring
- David: Humbling
- Marcos: Awesome
- James: Memorable
- Gant: Rewarding
- Lydia: Awesome
Check out their pictures from the tough, rewarding, inspiring, humbling, awesome, memorable day… (click to enlarge)