By Mary Alice Murphy

A group of interested veterans, families of survivors and of those who died in the Bataan Death March, and other representatives gathered this morning to begin plans for the 80th anniversary of the march.

Save the date of April 9, 2022, for the commemorative ceremony at Bataan Memorial Park north of Santa Clara on the road to Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark.

Plans are underway at the county level to hire someone to renovate and improve the actual memorial, which is deteriorating.

A new design has been developed with the help of architect Mark Richard, with input from Donnie Turner, the nephew of a man who was in Bataan, and also with help of Grant County Planning and Community Development Director Priscilla Shoup.

Alfred Ogas led the meeting for Bataan Park Rededication. He presented a proposed plan for the ceremony, and he asked for ideas and suggestions from the about 20 people gathered for the discussion.

"We need people to organize this effort," Ogas said. "This is the beginning of building up a committee for the rededication of the memorial. I'm trying to get the high school bands to participate. I would like to propose a march from Hurley to Santa Clara and another coming from Silver City to Santa Clara. Marchers will join together and go to the Bataan Memorial Park. We plan to invite first responders, law enforcement to move along with everyone else into the park. Once we get to the park, in addition to the ceremony, I envision a one- or two-day fiesta with vendors, food, games and activities and music."

The program for the ceremony will begin with a bugler presenting To the Colors. Ogas plans to do the call to orders and the posting of the colors was listed as the Marine Corps Color Guard. Frank Donohue, member of the Gaffney-Oglesby Marine Corps League, suggested that rather than one veterans' service organization doing the posting, it would be better to have a combined group with members from the Marine Corps League, American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans of America. After a brief discussion, attendees agreed it was the right thing to do.

Ogas suggested Lorraine Anglin to sing the National Anthem.

He asked for a recommendation for the Pledge of Allegiance.

When it came to the Invocation, Donohue suggested the Marine Corps League Chaplain Robert Lopez.

"I want to emphasize," Ogas said, "I want to do this with local people, not bringing in ones from outside the area. Give us all your input."

He asked if people thought wreath presentations should form part of the program. The overall consensus was to present wreaths, perhaps by family members of those who served during the Bataan March.

Ogas wondered who could sing the Armed Forces Salute. It was mentioned that the Hi Lo Silvers have often sung the song, a combination of all the songs of each Armed Forces branch.

He said he thought three speakers would be sufficient, with his suggested topics of What is the Bataan Death March, The Effects of the Death March on New Mexico and the Effects on Grant County.

Ogas said he would like to get Medal of Honor awardee Drew Dix to speak if he were available. Al Gamboa suggested Clyde Ely, and Ogas suggested Western New Mexico University President Joe Shepard.

"We're here to plan and present a first-class program," Ogas said.

David Morrison, veteran and American Legion member who has done research on the Bataan Death March, noted that Grant County still has 18 living World War II veterans. "I do have a lot of research. We need to honor our Bataan veterans and their survivors. I have great empathy with them. Grant County's participation in World War II and Bataan far exceeded any other county. I am willing to be a speaker or to be somehow otherwise involved."

Ogas, as a retired educator, said he plans to ask the high schools to develop a unit on Bataan and to bring kids to the site for the ceremony.

One of the attendees suggested involving Bataan Elementary School in Deming, as they have a unit on Bataan and might be willing to share.

Ogas said a plaque commemorating the occasion should be presented by a county representative.

When asked who could play Amazing Grace, a recommendation was made to have Jim Dines play it on bagpipes.

The firing volley would likely be by members of the various veteran services groups. And a bugler is needed to play Taps.

Ogas said a waiver would need to be created for those participating in the marches from Hurley and Silver City.

Several attendees will help with advertisement and getting the word out to potential attendees.

Ogas will present to the Silver City Town Council at its next meeting and will present to the Grant County Commission on Oct. 26.

The next planning meeting was set for 10 a.m. Wednesday Nov. 17 at the American Legion Hall.

For more information or to help, contact Alfred Ogas at 562-900-6026.