DEMING, New Mexico: “LEST WE FORGET.”
These words, etched on a commemorative plaque, tersely explain why a local elementary school was named “Bataan.”
Some 1,800 soldiers from the National Guard of New Mexico were deployed to the Philippines in September 1941 or before the Japanese invasion. Of this number, 900 died during the Death March.
The school, built in 2004, is named “Bataan” as a lasting tribute to the victims of the Death March.
“One hundred of the soldiers came from Luna County, majority of them from Deming,” said Kim Perea, a teacher and the main workhorse in the annual Death March Tribute.
Deming is the seat of government of Luna County. It lies about 30 miles from the Mexican border.
The names of the 100 are boldly printed on the wall leading to the school building. As if this is not enough, the names are again painted inside the building.
One of those who died in Bataan, Miguel Chavez, was an uncle of Perea.
Perea said a Death March Tribute usually involved a roll call by students of the names of the 100 soldiers and a recitation of the historic events culminating with the Death March.
She added that local officials, police and first responders join family members of the Bataan veterans and casualties in the tribute.
She expressed hopes that the bravery of the 100, “who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” would be known not only by the students of the Bataan Elementary School, but also by every student in Deming.