HomeNewsArticle Display

Bataan survivor’s descendant leads unit in grueling marathon

(Left to Right) U.S. Air Force Reservists, Master Sgt. John Herrick, 39, who has completed three other marathons; Staff Sgt. Tyrone Hawkins, 47, an avid cyclist; 2nd Lt. Amber Schoenberger, a direct descendent of a Bataan Death March survivor; Tech. Sgt. Delbert Templeton, 36, a prior Marine; and Tech. Sgt. Trevor Petersma, 39, who completed the Air Force half marathon while deployed in Iraq in 2008, all members of the 610th Command and Control Squadron, pose behind their unit guidon after completing the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon March 19 at White Sands Missile Range, NM. (Courtesy photo)

(Left to Right) U.S. Air Force Reservists, Master Sgt. John Herrick, 39, who has completed three other marathons; Staff Sgt. Tyrone Hawkins, 47, an avid cyclist; 2nd Lt. Amber Schoenberger, a direct descendent of a Bataan Death March survivor; Tech. Sgt. Delbert Templeton, 36, a prior Marine; and Tech. Sgt. Trevor Petersma, 39, who completed the Air Force half marathon while deployed in Iraq in 2008, all members of the 610th Command and Control Squadron, pose behind their unit guidon after completing the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon March 19 at White Sands Missile Range, NM. (Courtesy photo)

For Air Force 2nd Lt. Amber Schoenberger marches in the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon March 19 at White Sands Missile Range, NM, in honor of her grandfather (pictured on her backpack), U.S. Army Air Forces Cpl Willard Edwin Howard (1921-2009), who survived the grueling march in 1942. (Courtesy photo)

For Air Force 2nd Lt. Amber Schoenberger marches in the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon March 19 at White Sands Missile Range, NM, in honor of her grandfather (pictured on her backpack), U.S. Army Air Forces Cpl Willard Edwin Howard (1921-2009), who survived the grueling march in 1942. (Courtesy photo)

Amber Schoenberger, now a lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve, dances on her granddaddy's feet nearly 30 years ago. U.S. Army Air Forces Cpl Willard Edwin Howard (1921-2009) was a survivor of the 1942 Bataan Death March, and Schoenberger completed a memorial marathon March 19 at White Sands Missile Range, NM, in his honor. (Courtesy photo)

Amber Schoenberger, now a lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve, dances on her granddaddy's feet nearly 30 years ago. U.S. Army Air Forces Cpl Willard Edwin Howard (1921-2009) was a survivor of the 1942 Bataan Death March, and Schoenberger completed a memorial marathon March 19 at White Sands Missile Range, NM, in his honor. (Courtesy photo)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFNS) -- Thirty years ago, she was dancing on her grandfather’s feet. This month, she marched 26.2 miles through deep desert sand and over mountains carrying a 50-pound ruck sack with four comrades in arms, in his honor.

For 2nd Lt. Amber Schoenberger, memorializing the memory of her grandfather, Army Air Forces Cpl. Willard Edwin Howard was not just a family thing. She was also in full military uniform, leading enlisted members of her new Reserve unit to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Bataan Death March, on March 19, 2017, at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

“I could never understand the magnitude of the Bataan Death March as a little girl and therefore could never really show my gratitude or empathy for what my grandfather endured – nor would he have ever wanted anyone to acknowledge him for that event, either – but this was really a way that I could take action to show respect for him and a higher level of understanding of his suffering,” said the 35-year-old lieutenant, who was one of very few women her age to complete the marathon in full uniform with a rucksack.


After the U.S. surrender of the Bataan Peninsula on the main Philippine island of Luzon to the Japanese during World War II on April 9, 1942, the approximately 75,000 Filipino and American troops on Bataan were forced to make an arduous 65-mile march to prison camps. For 28 years, this tragic event has been memorialized at White Sands, New Mexico, with as many as 7,000 military and civilian marchers. With 1,500 foot elevation changes, 87-degree temperatures, and strong wind, it is one of the most challenging marathon courses in existence.

“Even though he has passed away, my grandfather continues to inspire me. He was only 18 when he was forced to march in Bataan, and yet he came back from all of that to have a family and love and laugh often. I sometimes can't get over that perspective ... He was only 18 years old.”

Schoenberger, who is president and owner of a construction and development company in Tempe, Arizona, also serves as the director of mission support at the 610th Command and Control Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. When she learned other unit members were planning to attempt the event, she simply had to do it with them. Her beloved grandfather had endured the march in 1942, and his legacy has inspired her military service and many other things – including her zest for life.

“Being new to the Air Force, I was so honored to be able to wear the uniform for this memorial marathon and don my grandfather's photo next to my very name tape ... I remember dancing on his feet as a little girl and now some small part of me has been able to follow in his footsteps of service and love of country.”

The team she led included Air Force reservists: Master Sgt. John Herrick, who has completed three other marathons; Tech. Sgt. Trevor Petersma, who completed the Air Force half marathon while deployed in Iraq in 2008; Tech. Sgt. Delbert Templeton, a prior Marine; and Staff Sgt. Tyrone Hawkins, an avid cyclist.

Herrick, who was marching to honor Army Sgt. Joel Clarkson, said this marathon was by far the most challenging he’s completed. Clarkson was a Ranger killed in the line of duty during Herrick’s special operations combat camera deployment to Afghanistan.

“His friendship helped me through the most difficult period of military service in my 22-year career, so it was helpful to remember his ultimate sacrifice and how my difficulty paled in comparison,” said Herrick, whose own family’s military legacy also spurred him to rally the team for the march.

For Hawkins, it was more of a mental challenge than a physical one, and keeping the actual Bataan survivors in mind during the 10-hour event kept his will to complete the marathon intact.

“At least we don’t have to worry about getting shot and no one was going to bayonet us,” he said. “That kept me grounded and focused, if I kept moving forward I could get through it.”

All the unit members conveyed a sense of pride about being able to do it with their unit guidon, which has now inspired others in the unit to join them next year.

“This has been a challenge I’ve wanted to complete for years,” said Herrick. “This unit seemed to have the right type of people who would be willing and capable of completing it. If you talked to any millennial, or anyone twice removed from the Greatest Generation, they likely won’t even know what you mean when you say the Bataan Death March – so this memorial marathon is a very important tool to help current and upcoming generations remember what these men did for our freedom.”

Engage

Facebook Twitter
.@124FighterWing #pilot executes an austere landing at the Freedom Landing Strip, #NationalTrainingCenterhttps://t.co/HQ6xjGohcs
#USAF BMT is changing this #summer! #Airmen will spend more time on weapons familiarization, along w/ additions of… https://t.co/wlHwtx7XWO
#USAF #Airmen continues the process of making his childhood dream of playing professional football come true. https://t.co/iAl70c8GXS
The opening of Cargo City successfully transitions operations from the #USAF & Coalition Abdullah Al-Mubarak Air Ba… https://t.co/K73PkhjpNY
RT @AirmanMagazine: It started as a dare between two pilots... The @usairforce Hurricane Hunters save lives by flying through hurricanes t…
RT @ActingSecAF: Thanks to this crew for making the right call and saving the life of a fellow service member. https://t.co/cP4KCIQFgD
The Space Test Program-2 will provide the #USAF with insight into the SpaceX booster recovery and refurbishing proc… https://t.co/qYhlj7Je9V
RT @ActingSecAF: Happy birthday @USArmy. 244 years of defending our nation. @SecArmy https://t.co/AfMoPxwbd8
RT @DeptofDefense: “They’re really noisy, but I love them.” This @USAirForce F-15 Eagle crew chief from the @142ndFW shares his motivation…
Today, America recognizes the birth of Old Glory with its own holiday. Flag Day was first celebrated in 1877 to mar… https://t.co/wqoEjdqQFy
#FollowFriday! @ActingSecAF Matthew Donovan is responsible for the affairs of the #USAF, including the organizing,… https://t.co/28IlKOKWMq
.@NellisAFB fixed wing aircrews are flight-testing new prototype helmets this summer, thanks in part to an accelera… https://t.co/4HSUGSk3Qg
The 2019 @warriorgames Opening Ceremony is set for 6/22 @AmalieArena w/@HunterHayes! Stay up to date with your… https://t.co/u34QuBnpdo
.@AETCommand's latest #podcast series dives into "Developing Mach-21 #Airmen," providing visibility on recruiting,… https://t.co/CGSHJonQAT
RT @ActingSecAF: Thanks to the support of Congress, the @usairforce is developing game changing technology. #fasterandsmarter https://t.co/…
#DYK, Flight equipment has historically been designed to fit males because there are statistically more male… https://t.co/iJnSp1pV74
.@AirForceReserve #Airmen rescues an 8yr old boy from flood waters, in Prague, Oklahoma. #USAFhttps://t.co/Y4efafIkO6
#DYK, Individuals w/ disabilities comprise a large part of the #USAF civilian force. As part of the American Disabi… https://t.co/LOP14Xhg4j