A group of Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, represented Fort Leonard Wood in the 30th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March held March 17 at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
Of the eight cadre members who completed the 26.2 mile march, one set a new record in the Individual Military Female Light category.
Staff Sgt. Brenda Bramel came in at 4:54:17, smashing the previous record by over 13 minutes.
“I just wanted to beat my time from last year,” Bramel said. “Then I saw the mile timer and I was doing really good and knew I could finish in under five hours — that became my new goal.”
Before going, Bramel said she checked times from last year’s event and she had to beat 5:20.
“It was a gut-check,” she said. “I just started jogging it and around mile 10 I noticed I had like a 9:15 pace. At the time where I was, I wasn’t hurt, I wasn’t sore yet and I realized I could make it.”
Placing second in the Individual Military Male Light category, and first in his age group, was Command Sgt. Maj. Tom Kunnmann. He said this is a “bucket list” event for a lot of people.
“It’s the military light (category) so you go out there, have a good time, have the camaraderie,” he said. “You want to do well but it’s kind of the secondary focus.”
Kunnmann said the event epitomizes what readiness is and encourages other leaders to go out, set an example and encourage others.
“I think people should do it,” Kunnmann said. “Not only for the event itself and what it commemorates but it is also a good way to represent Fort Leonard Wood (and your unit.) If you’ve got the time and inclination, it is well worth it.”
The annual march began in 1989 to commemorate the 65-mile trek of about 75,000 Filipino and American troops on the Bataan Peninsula. They were forced to march five days in intense heat across the Philippines to prisoner-of-war camps in April of 1942, following the surrender of U.S. Gen. Edward King Jr. to Japanese forces. Thousands perished along the way earning it the name Bataan Death March.
This year’s event saw a record 8,631 marchers and runners and featured additional activities for the participants such as free historical seminars, the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project, Bataan Congressional Gold Medal Presentation and an opportunity to meet Bataan survivors.
This is Bramel’s second time participating in this event and Kunnmann’s third.
Also representing Fort Leonard Wood was Staff Sgt. Megan Lunardini, who placed 11th overall and 6th in her age group; 1st Lt. Ashley Friesen, who placed 13th overall and third in her age group; Capt. Kara Krant, who placed 15th overall and fourth in her age group; Staff Sgt. Gunnar Olson, who placed 18th overall and second in his age group; Sgt. 1st Class Mauricio Rios, who placed 19th overall and sixth in his age group; and Staff Sgt. Christopher Shute who placed 46th overall.
All eight competed in the Individual Military Light categories.