The annual march, a 26.2-mile course, honors World War II soldiers who were responsible for the defense of the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines. On April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of the American and Filipino soldiers surrendered to Japanese forces. The soldiers were marched for days in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles. Thousands died. Those who survived faced the hardships of a prisoner of war camp. Others were wounded or killed when unmarked enemy ships transporting prisoners of war to Japan were sunk by U.S. air and naval forces.
The URI cadets were among the 4,000 or so military and civilian personnel who participated in the event this year. URI had the only ROTC team from New England. The team consists of seven URI cadets, two Roger Williams University cadets, and one Salve Regina University cadet.
Divided into two five-person teams, URI’s “heavy” team, so called because its five URI cadets were required to carry a pack minimum 35 pounds, completed the course in 7:49 and finished 5th out of 16 ROTC teams in the category. “Not bad for a bunch of New England guys not accustomed to the desert elevation (4,100-5,400-feet) and a midday temperature of 80 degrees,” says Lt. Col. Paul C. Krajeski, a professor of military science who oversees the ROTC program.
The lieutenant colonel shares a personal anecdote: “At about mile 10, a difficult part of the course in the middle of the 1,400-foot incline, I started feeling sorry for myself. It was then that I passed an amputee with an artificial left leg struggling up the hill. He was from the Walter Reed Hospital “Amputeam,” consisting of Iraq/Afghanistan vets. Needless to say, my load immediately felt a lot lighter and the path ahead much easier.”
AT THE FINISH LINE: Bottom row (left to right): Cadets Joe Sgambato of Weymouth, Mass., Dan Milliken of Cornwall, N.Y., Alisa D’Agostino of West Greenwich and Lt. Col. Paul Krajeski of PeaceDale; Top row (left to right) Cadets Chris Capasso of Nashua, N.H., Jose Moreno of Providence, Adam Schultz of Cumberland, Adam Robitaille of Acushnet, Mass., Andrew Hartman of Richmond, Ryan Anderson of Johnston, and Chuck Burkhard of Danbury, Conn. Photo courtesy of Lt. Col. Paul Kajeski.