April 9th, 1942 marks the day that WWII fighting ended for thousands of American and Filipino troops fighting on Bataan. After 4 months of struggling against long odds, Gen. King marched out of the jungle and offered his surrender to the Japanese. At their lowest point, these thousands of heroes would be called upon to summon all of their remaining physical, mental and spiritual strength to endure 3 more years of brutal treatment at the hands of their captors. A forced march of more than 60 miles awaited the men in the next week, followed by imprisonment in inhuman, foul prison camps and forced labor on fatal work details. Later, they would be herded onto ships and transported in the dark, suffocating holds to various areas of the Imperial Japanese Empire and forced to work as slave laborers in conditions that were too dangerous for non-prisoners. Eventually, those that survived would be freed at last, and their captors would bow before them and ask for forgiveness. The heroes would be delayed in their return to home so that they could be fed and treated for disease and injury.
Eventually, fathers, brothers, sons and uncles, as well as daughters, mothers, aunts and sisters, would complete their journey from the battlefields of Bataan to the loving arms of their families and communities throughout America and the Philippines.
Some arrived home alive, ready to move on with their lives.
Other arrived home broken, struggling to make any sense of what they had been through.
Some arrived as remains, meticulously recovered by their fellow soldiers and those sacred remains returned to their loved ones for burial.
But many others never returned, still buried in some unknown location, or at sea.
Today, we remember all of those heroes, most of whom are no longer with us. And we thank them for demonstrating what the cost of freedom is, and reminding us that only free people understand that cost, and only free people are willing to pay that cost.
God bless America. God bless the Philippines. God bless the Heroes of Bataan!