Marching to Remember Bataan
Held each March, the Bataan Memorial Death March transports you through time as more than 8,000 marchers cross over a rugged stretch of American desert in remembrance of the unknown thousands of Americans and Filipinos who died 76 years ago marching into Japanese captivity. El Paso Community College (EPCC) EMT and paramedic students have joined the memorial event and volunteered hundreds of hours at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., for the last five years.
“Participating in the Bataan Memorial Death March is a great honor,” says EPCC paramedic student Jeffrey Gilmer. “As a former active-duty soldier and current Army Reserve soldier, paying tribute to both the soldiers who survived and those who lost their lives during the march is the least we could do. The survivors who show up each year to cheer on people from all 50 states and other countries make the march very unique.”
“Our students got to participate in a unique clinical experience under special circumstances,” says EPCC medical services instructor Sotero Ramirez. “I am so proud of this group of students who have served their country and want to continue to serve by providing care to the many participants.”
EPCC offers a fast-track paramedic curriculum for active-duty Army soldiers. Sotero says a cohort of those students participated in the march this year as well. “With hundreds of patients they see,” he notes, “it offers them the opportunity to provide care and enhance the experience.”
This event is one of the largest planned mass-casualty training events of the year, averaging 700 patients, which allows EPCC students to get hands-on. There is a team of medical staff consisting of volunteer doctors, registered nurses, physician assistants, paramedics, and EMTs, along with many other volunteers. “We not only rely on the additional staffing the EPCC EMT and paramedic students provide, but we appreciate the college’s desire to provide the students with exposure to a planned mass-casualty event,” says Steve Surface, Region 9 coordinator for the Texas Emergency Medical Task Force. “How many times in their careers will they see 400–700 patients in the span of 12 hours?”
Surface organizes the medical team every year and believes EPCC’s students bring enthusiasm and passion to the experience. “I’ve come to view this event as an opportunity to serve our community by sharing a very unique experience with our future emergency care providers,” he adds.
El Paso Community College’s EMT and paramedic program prepares students with on-the-job training and to take the state certification exam through the Texas Department of Health Services and national certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians For more: epcc.edu.
Joyce Y. Cordell is director of marketing and community relations at El Paso Community College.