Friday, March 30, 2012

Reprinted from the Outlook student newspaper at C of O
Students Prepare for Philippines Tour by Sarah Unruh, Staff Writer

Maria Williams is a senior accounting and Spanish double -major who grew up in the Philippines. She moved to the United States when she was 11 years old. Williams will be returning to the Philippines this April on a patriotic travel trip to the Bataan Death fields and several other places in the Philippines.

During the Bataan Death March, 90,000 to 100,000 American and Filipino prisoners who surrendered to the Japanese on April 10, 1942, were forced to march 55 miles to San Fernando, then taken in railway box cars to Capas. They were then forced to march another eight miles to Camp O’Donnell.
The captives during this march were tortured, brutally beaten, and denied food and water. An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 prisoners were killed during this march.

This patriotic trip will consist of visits to several memorial sites, POW camps, museums and military forts throughout the Philippines.

“It was all in God’s timing,” Williams said in regards to her being selected for this trip.
Williams said she used to work banquets at The Keeter Center and had several opportunities to serve and get to know many veterans who had gone on previous trips.

During her time at The Keeter Center, Williams said, “I would have never imagined I would get to go on this trip.”

Williams said, even though she was born in the Philippines, she never really got to know the history of her family or her birth country.

The preparations for this trip have helped Williams gain a deeper appreciation for the history of her country. This trip is “acting as a dual purpose to truly know about where I was born” Williams said.
The trip participants go through several training sessions before they leave to become more familiar with the history of the places they will visit.

Williams said this trip has inspired her to learn more about her own connection to the trip.
“I’ve been talking about it with my family and collecting memories,” Williams said.
Williams said her family has helped her a lot in gaining more knowledge and perspective on this trip. She learned that at one point, “The war got so bad that everyone panicked because of the violence, so they retreated to the mountains.”

During this time, Williams said, her great-grandfather carried his own mother to safety for 30 to 40 miles, even though she asked to be left behind.

Williams said “I didn’t know how hard it was back then and that they just had to except what came.”
Williams is particularly excited that she “will get to meet these special veterans that in some way helped keep my family alive.”

In addition to going to the Philippines, Williams, along with Branden Piatt, and Christianne Martin and chaperones James Schreffler and Becky Vest traveled to Sands City, New Mexico, to do a commemoration march of the Bataan Death March.

Williams is also looking forward to this experience and said, “I’m really excited because it’s a great way to prepare for the Philippines trip.” The Bataan Memorial Death March took place on March 25. The march takes participants through the desert terrain of the White Sands Missile Range. This march gives a depiction of what it would have been like for the service members who were forced to march the actual trail in the Philippines during WWII.

There are two routes that participants can take during this commemoration. The first route is called the ‘Green’ route and is the full 26.2 mile march. The second route, the ‘Blue’ route, is an honorary 14.2 mile hike for participants not able or willing to do the full route.

Piatt, a junior elementary education major, went on the commemoration march with Williams before the Philippines trip as well. Piatt is looking forward to this experience and said, “I think it will be really cool to get to know the veterans and hear about their stories.”

The commemoration trip allowed these students the opportunity to meet some veterans who experienced WWII firsthand. Piatt said this trip was insightful for him to “see how it was when the death march happened.”

Following The Bataan Memorial Death March, students will be traveling through the Philippines from April 3 to the 13.

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