In the small town of Santa Clara, New Mexico, the biggest park is dedicated to the veterans of foreign wars. It is named after the Bataan Death March, the forced transfer of over 75,000 prisoners of war along the Bataan peninsula in the Philippines during World War II. Anywhere between 5,500 to 18,650 Filipino and American prisoners died on the march. They died of thirst, exhaustion, and in countless cases murder at the hands of the Japanese soldiers who took them captive.
Many of the American soldiers on that march were from New Mexico, particularly those in the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery of the National Guard. The Bataan Death March is one of the most remembered events of WWII in the state of New Mexico, memorialized with a building and museum in the capital, and with an annual memorial walk at White Sands Missile Range. Grant County, which had citizens serving in the 200th and 515th, dedicated its own tribute to its veterans on June 12, 1999, in the form of this park.
The Bataan Memorial features a large mural, emblazoned with the words “Honoring Our Heroes”. On it are photographs of Bataan veterans, large representations of medallions they earned, and accounts from the war. Nearby are examples of retired military hardware, including a tank and a Huey helicopter (which didn’t enter service until 1956). There is also a small memorial dedicated to forgotten veterans of all wars.
The park also features three baseball fields, volleyball courts, basketball courts, hiking trails, a playground, and more. The inclusion of recreational facilities, in a way, gives Bataan Memorial Park a special purpose not often seen in war memorials. It is dedicated not just to remembering fallen soldiers, but to appreciating what they fought for - the rights of their families to live in peace.
Know Before You Go
The Bataan Memorial Park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.