SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (3/28/2012) -- In April of 1942, more
than 76,000 American and Filipino soldiers surrendered to the
Imperial Japanese Army after the Battle of Bataan in the
Consequently, the prisoners of war were forced
to march 80 miles in what is known as the Bataan Death March to an
abandoned military outpost.
One of the POWs was U.S. Navy
Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Robert Kelly. Kelly had been
stationed in the Philippines where he met his wife, Monica. Together
they had two sons, Charles and Ruben, and they were also expecting a
During the march, Kelly was with one of his good
friends. His friend did not think he was going to make it so he gave
Kelly his wedding ring and told him if he does not make it, to give
his wife his ring and tell her that he loves her.
the Japanese forces invaded where Monica was, forcing his two sons
to hide under their house. They were later found by an uncle, who
they went to live with. At some point, Monica went into labor and
delivered baby Virginia. After complications due to lack of access
to a hospital and rural conditions, Monica and Virginia passed away.
Kelly's friend also passed away.
After the survivors
of the march made it to the camp, they continued to endure physical
abuse and murders. If not from the harsh treatment, thousands of
others died due to lack of medical care and nutrition.
months later, they were rescued in a daring maneuver by U.S. forces.
After being rescued, the soldiers faced a long journey home until
they were greeted by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco,
Calif., upon first entering America.
After returning to
America, Kelly returned to his home state of Kentucky. He then went
back to the Philippines for his family, but only returned with
Charles. Kelly also found his friend's wife, Molly Sue, who he later
Charles followed his father's footsteps and joined
the Navy Reserves. Ruben was reunited with his family when he was
drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War. After a year in the
Army, he switched to the Marines where he served 27 years.
Ruben had five children, two of which retired from the Marines.
Ruben also has seven grandchildren and two of his granddaughters
currently serve in the Air Force--one of them being me.
Growing up, I've always enjoyed hearing about my family's military
history, especially about my great-grandpa. I remember when we were
in school and we learned about the Bataan Death March, I knew all
about it, and I thought it was cool to be related to someone who I
learned about in school.
I learned about the Bataan Memorial
Death March at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., three years ago, but
due to other obligations I have yet to participate, but I will some
For now though, I was extremely excited that Scott was
going to do a similar march.
Although the march was not
always easy, my inspiration to keep going was my great-grandpa
Charles. Similarly, when there are rough times in life, my
inspiration to keep going is my family.
I was not able to
meet my great-grandpa, but fortunately my grandpa and grand-uncle
have both been able to share his legacy with me and my family.
After reflecting on my great-grandpa, it is no wonder why I
serve--to honor my family members and all the other service members
who made sacrifices for their country and family in the past.
By USAF Senior Airman Amber Kelly, Herard Follow
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