Mike Flodin, his son Aaron, and Aaron’s friends honored the Bataan Death March from two very different parts of the world. Mike trained and walked his marathon in Florida, while Aaron and his friends ran in their overseas military base. Mike shared nothing about this publicly during the process because he said that wasn’t his purpose but, as his sister-in-law, I nagged him until he let me write about it for Memorial Day. Due to the nature of my nephew’s service, I cannot give specifics in regard to his likeness, duties, or location. Thank you for your patience with the anonymity. I was able to briefly communicate with Aaron via text about his experience and include his thoughts.

What inspired you to participate in the Bataan Memorial Death March?

Mike: Most people don’t know there are United States cemeteries all over the world. About four years ago, I was on a business trip and visited the Manila American Cemetery. I spent half a day there, walking among the tombstones and studying the art, taking a bunch of pictures. Mosaic maps depicted WWII battles in the Pacific theater. Americans learn about the big ones like Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal, but don’t know how many battles were waged in that region. I stood there among all those tombstones and thought about my own son, who is in the military. At that time, he’d already been deployed once, and I knew it would happen again eventually. Here were the bodies of seventeen thousand sons who never went home. I felt a solidarity with them…a compunction to honor what happened.

Mike: During WWII, the Japanese forced American and Filipino captives to march from the south through the Philippine jungles to a prison camp in the north, about 65 miles. More than half of the men died along the way from exhaustion and starvation. I’d heard about the Bataan Memorial Death March from a friend who’d done it and decided to participate. I planned to go to White Sands for the marathon but, due to covid, it was changed to a virtual event.

Aaron: I got involved because my dad decided he was ready to get healthy and lose some weight. I was super proud of him from the start, and when he mentioned wanting to do this marathon, I had to run it with him.

My teammates here got involved because 26.2 miles is an awful long way to run by yourself and I had already finished my latest audio book…In all seriousness, I have some great people here that I work with, and having a group made the process much more enjoyable.

What training regimen did you use?

Mike: I started to train in August. I’m ashamed to say—I couldn’t even walk a mile. I started with half a mile six days a week and slowly built up to six miles a day. The last three weeks before the marathon, I followed a set plan that included a ten-mile walk and a twelve-mile walk. The three days before the march, I rested. I got injured twice during training and had to stop until I healed. One time, I pulled a hamstring, and the other I developed massive blisters on my feet. During the marathon on April 9, those blisters broke open again.

I also cut out all fast food, alcohol, and ate mostly vegetables, meat, and fish. I lost 56 pounds. My sleep apnea went away, and I was able to drop my high blood pressure and acid reflux medications. I feel great.

Aaron: I used the Hal Higden method of preparing for your first marathon…I didn’t have as much time as the training regimen calls for, but I used the overall strategy.

How did the marathon go?

Mike: My son, his friends, and I marched on April 9, 2021. Even though he was halfway around the world, we wanted to walk at the same time. So, I started at 2:30 AM, and they started at 12:30 PM. We kept in touch through facetime and text. It was really cool because he’d text me and say, “I’m on mile seven. Where are you?” I was also on mile seven. Later, I texted him, “I’m on mile twelve,” and he answered, “Mile 12 and a half.” We’re on two different continents, and we finished within twenty minutes of each other.

I mapped out a route from my home to the middle of the neighboring town. My son and his friends walked around their base four times.

There was this point where I was walking in a ditch along a road. It was maybe 5:30 in the morning. I thought about how I’d been walking for hours, and my son had been walking for hours around his base. All these people driving past me were headed to work or whatever and had no idea about what he and I were doing. I realized many Americans have no idea what’s happening in the rest of the world. My son is getting fired upon overseas, while people in the states are just going about their day. Like me, families hug their sons and daughters, tell them they love them, and send them off to the other side of world, hoping they’ll come home. But there’s a cemetery in the middle of Manila with 20,000 boys who didn’t get to go home. It’s a real fear now–just like it was then. However, most people aren’t aware what their neighbors might be going through or who they’ve lost.

Aaron: The team all finished, and we didn’t leave anyone back…which is a win for the home team.

Do you plan on doing the March again?

Mike: Definitely. My dream is to go to the Philippines, plot a course, and walk the whole 65 miles the captives walked during WWII. Not sure my wife would let me though…

Aaron: I think doing another marathon would be fun, but I’d like to do it with a little different scenery…

Thoughts from six5mom:

Today as we enjoy our barbeques and fireworks, let us take a moment to honor the many men and women who have lost their lives serving and protecting this country, as well as the world. If you know a family suffering that loss, reach and let them know they are not alone in their grief.

With AAPI Heritage month wrapping up, it’s important to note their losses and contributions in the Pacific theater. Here’s an article honoring Filipino martyrs during WWII.

If you are interested in the Bataan Memorial Death March, go here.

Here are two articles about the Manila American Cemetery:

https://ph.usembassy.gov/embassy/manila/manila-american-cemetery-memorial/

https://www.tripsavvy.com/manila-american-cemetery-philippines-1629749

Mike and Sorella with five of their six children.