JROTC cadets memorialize sacrifice through hike

Aviano High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets walk through the Aviano, Italy, hillsides during a Bataan Death March remembrance 14-mile hike, Oct. 31, 2016. Cadets who completed the hike and gathered charitable donations earned a JROTC ribbon to wear on their cadet uniforms. (Courtesy photo by Allison Butterly/Released)

Aviano High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets walk through the Aviano, Italy, hillsides during a Bataan Death March remembrance 14-mile hike, Oct. 31, 2016. Cadets who completed the hike and gathered charitable donations earned a JROTC ribbon to wear on their cadet uniforms. (Courtesy photo by Allison Butterly/Released)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- During the Filipino campaign in World War II, Japanese forces were pushing against Allied-controlled areas. The allies retreated to the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines and subsequently surrendered in April 1942. While being abused by their captors, 75,000 Filipino and American troops were forced to march 65 miles through the subtropical jungles to their prison camp.

The Aviano High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps unit conducted their second annual Bataan Death March remembrance hike to memorialize the historical event, Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, 2016.

Retired Senior Master Sgt. Scott Seibert, enlisted JROTC instructor, led the 14-mile hike over a 3-day period in the hills near Aviano, Italy. Cadets who completed the hike and gathered charitable donations earned a JROTC ribbon to wear on their cadet uniforms.

Seibert explained why the event is about more than just the recognition.

“That was the greatest generation and an important time for the nation,” Seibert remarked. “We do this for those who marched, especially those who did not make it.”

Even though the march was tragic for those who endured it, Seibert wanted the cadets to enjoy their hike and remember the sacrifices after they leave Aviano.

JROTC Cadet Master Sgt. Austin Groves, one of the corps senior cadets, is new to the march this year.

“The best part about the march is the scenery,” Groves said. “I also like how all of us are willing to walk more miles than needed—it shows our commitment to excellence.”

In 2015, the AHS JROTC unit raised $500 to support the Syrian refugees with toiletry items to help them with their transition to Europe. This year, funds will go to victims of earthquakes and other natural disasters.