2nd Lt. Jeffrey Gonzales Completes 14.2 Miles with a 40-Pound Ruck
By 2nd Lt. Beverly Shepard
Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) 2nd Lt. Jeffrey Gonzales recently completed the 32nd annual Bataan Memorial Death March—an event held to honor heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II, sacrificing their freedom, health, and, in many cases, their lives.
For the challenge, 2nd Lt. Gonzales completed 14.2 miles carrying a 40-pound ruck.
“Unlike the typical marathon, this is a memorial March,” 2nd Lt. Gonzales said. “Participating in this March keeps the memory alive and honors these World War II veterans.”
On April 9, 1942, thousands of American and Filipino Soldiers were surrendered to the enemy and forced to march more than 60 miles in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles. Thousands died. Those who survived faced the hardships of prisoner of war (POW) camps. The POWs would not see freedom until 1945 when U.S.-Filipino forces recaptured the lost territory.
The Memorial March
The Veterans of Foreign Wars and other organizations sponsor the March. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s March was virtual—for the first time in event history.
The March officially kicked off on April 9, 2021. Participants could complete their mileage between April 9 and April 18, 2021. However, the March had to be completed in one day. 2nd Lt. Gonzales completed the March on Saturday, April 17, 2021 on a portion of the Big Creek Greenway in Forsyth Co., Ga.
March participants could choose between the 26.2-mile course (marathon length) or the honorary 14.2-mile course. For his first year of participation, 2nd Lt. Gonzales chose the 14.2-mile March. For this year’s virtual challenge, March organizers eliminated the event’s typical divisions—making the ruck optional. But 2nd Lt Gonzales chose to carry a 40-pound ruck anyway.
Ready to Serve!
Georgia State Defense Force 2nd Lt. Jeffrey Gonzales gears up for the 32nd annual Bataan Memorial Death March, April 17, 2021. (The March was an individual challenge, not part of a GSDF mission.)
Since the event’s inception, participation has grown—from about 100 to about 9,600 marchers. Marchers from across the United States and several other countries participate.
Those completing this year’s challenge received various commemorative items, including a T-shirt and dog tags.
The March is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. But this Soldier thought it was worthwhile.
“It brings credibility to the Georgia State Defense Force,” 2nd Lt. Gonzales said. “It shows that GSDF Soldiers are fit and ready to serve!”
2nd Lt. Gonzales has been a GSDF Soldier since 2017. He currently serves with GSDF’s Opposing Force (OPFOR) Command.
For more on the historical significance of the Bataan Memorial Death March, go here: https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/bataan-death-march
Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) 2nd Lt. Jeffrey Gonzales holds up a commemorative T-shirt after completing the 32nd annual Bataan Memorial Death March, Forsyth, Co., Ga., April 17, 2021. 2nd Lt. Gonzales finished the 14.2-mile challenge, while carrying a 40-pound ruck. (The March was an individual challenge, not part of a GSDF mission.)