Bataan Memorial Death March: Honoring a Fellow Fallen Soldier
On March 19th, New Fairfield resident and Army veteran Matt Hubert and 14 other team members had the honor and privilege of participating in the Bataan Memorial Death March (BMDM) at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The BMDM is a 26.2-mile march with a 40+ pound rucksack through the high desert at the foothills of the Oregon Mountain range. The purpose of the march is to remember and honor the 75,000 Filipino and American soldiers who were taken captive by Japanese forces in WWII and were forced, at gunpoint, to march 65+ miles across the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. Conditions were torturous, and without adequate food or water, many did not survive. What these soldiers endured is unfathomable. Today this annual event has morphed into a memorial march for all of our service members who have paid the ultimate price for promoting freedoms and limiting tyrannies around the world.
Matt and his two brothers assembled three teams (Red, White, and Blue Teams) and prepared and trained for over four months for this event. Though many originally joined for personal reasons, the purpose and focus soon became centralized around honoring a fellow fallen soldier, CPT Andrew Pedersen-Keel. Andrew, a member of the 3rd Special Forces Group, paid the ultimate sacrifice with his life on March 11, 2013, in the Wardak Province of Afghanistan.
Andrew was a native of Connecticut, having graduated from Avon Old Farms School in 2002 and the U.S. Military Academy in 2006. Andrew made an impact on many throughout his life and continues to do so today through the charity APK Charities, which Bob Keiser and Helen Pedersen-Keiser created to honor their son’s memory. APK Charities is a non-profit organization that provides direct assistance to veterans and active duty military from Connecticut. They also assist other Gold Star Families struggling to adjust to the new reality of having lost their son or daughter in combat.
Prior to the event, the three teams were lucky enough to spend some time with Bob, listening to stories about Andrew and hearing the impact that Andrew made on his team and his friends and the impact he continues to have on others. Bob said, “It’s what keeps me going. Knowing Andrew’s memory lives on and that his name is not forgotten.” These stories were a true inspiration and motivated the teams to push themselves during the march. Andrew’s spirit was truly alive with each of them as they marched.
Marching 26 miles seems so arbitrary and insignificant compared to the immense sacrifices our men and women in uniform make, but for each team member to play even the smallest part in honoring Andrew’s legacy was extremely valuable and meaningful to them. The teams thank APK Charities, and especially Bob and Helen, for their strength, bravery, and kindness and for giving each of them the opportunity to honor their son proudly.
If you want to honor Andrew, another fallen service member, or simply support APK Charities’ ongoing mission, please consider making a donation to APK Charities. Donations can be made by clicking here.
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Are you willing to help a vet in need? Every penny counts!