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    Bataan Memorial Death March Cheyenne WY

    Bataan Memorial Death March held at F.E. Warren AFB!

    John Facemire and his family were present on Saturday, April 11 to participate in this historical event. John is an agent with us at RE/MAX Capitol Properties, along with his wife Tammy, also a veteran. John is a retired CMSgt after 33 years of active duty military service.

    When asked why it’s important for him to participate in this annual memorial event, John said,

    This will be the seventh time I have participated. The history and sacrifice of all in involved in the Bataan Death March was why I got involved. The opportunity to meet survivors and listen to their stories is why I keep going back. Also at the March participants usually have a story to tell and it always interests me. I usually have a streamer on my pack for someone I personally knew that we lost during the war on terror.

    John Facemire

    John shared this email with me from the Community Commons Manager explaining more about the history and Bataan Memorial Death March. The most powerful line for me was, “the American military leaves no man behind” I love that these men are not forgotten and at least one family could put their son/brother/uncle, Walter James Kellett, to rest.

    My daughter Kate and I are going to walk as far as we can on Saturday to remember my husband, Wally’s, Uncle who died in Cabanatuan after the Bataan Death March.  Walter James Kellett, who was called “Bobbie” by the family, was my mother-in-law’s eldest brother.

    For so many years he was MIA.  The family never expected to have his body returned.  His presumed death/loss devasted his mother who was reportedly never the same when it became apparent that he had died in the Philippines.  At that time, all communication was by letter which sometimes took months to receive.  My mother-in-law still has letters from her brother that show he had thought he was in a safe place and that the Japanese would never attack them there.  His deployment was just a couple of months from ending when Bataan happened.  Bobbie was a young single man when he died.

    Here’s an excerpt from some of the information the Army sent us.

    Cabanatuan was “a mess”. Not like Germans and Italians, who signed Geneva Convention. Moved aircraft off the island, but left some crew and support people on the island and used them as defenders. Unit ultimately surrendered, and Walter was part of the Bataan Death March. No access to any medical medication or treatment. Walter succumbed to Malaria and/or dysentery on July 19, 1942 at 4am as best we know.(We can’t find out for sure one way or another about this date.) Did a burial system in Cabanatuan–started at noon on July 18, and anyone who died between then and noon on July 19 were buried in a common grave, common grave 312. (Did this between April and September, where death rates were higher than they were later.) 34 individuals died that day. Note that the food that was served to the Americans was similar (but worse) than the Japanese ate–rice and fish soup rather than American food. Calorie intake dropped drastically. Drugs were not available to combat malaria at that time. In Cabanatuan, laid soldiers shoulder to shoulder. Not clear how many times the bodies were dug up and reburied. During the disinterment and reinterment, there was some commingling going on. Dr. Mildred Trotter, an archeologist, stopped the reinterring in 1954 to try to stop the commingling. (See the detailed report for details.) In 2014 the disinterment was restarted after the government lost a lawsuit related to common grave 717.

    There were problems with the identification of the men in these graves, and the army went to straighten this out. We do not have all of the remains right now. The Army has a process for the future identification of more remains, and there is paperwork around this that we will review and sign later on today. When the remains were processed after WW II, they were processed with a hardening compound and the formaldehyde used in the Korean Wartime, they discovered this process ruined the DNA.A breakthrough was made after the 1990s to break through the cement/hardening. The hardening compound was used on many remains during WW II. The process was similar to the lime that they used on bodies as well. This is why that many individual bones can’t be identified. It can take up to 9 weeks to do DNA identification on up to20 samples. DNA samples–the army has to work the problem backward, using mitochondrial DNA, not the “organic” DNA. This mitochondrial DNA is only carried by the immediate family members (sister) and male descendants one generation down. There was a controlled group of names (34 known names in this common grave) to test against. They are comparing 10,428 samples and ultimately got a good match. Dental records–Good match on teeth and historical records of dental records.

    Thank you to the organizers, volunteers, participants and John, Tammy, Trinity and Owen Facemire for keeping this World War II history alive. Never Forget. Cheyenne has a long term commitment with the military adding one more reason to why we are SOLD on our community!

    Tammy Facemire

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