Wienkes participate in Bataan Death March

Rachel Wienke and her dad Sam have participated in theBataan Memorial Death March eight times.

Rachel Wienke and her dad Sam have participated in the Bataan Memorial Death March eight times.

Participating in the Bataan Memorial Death March has become an annual tradition for Rachel Wienke [FHS 1990] and her dad, Sam Wienke. Rachel has completed the 26.2 mile course eight times. Starting two years later, Sam has done it six times.

It is hard to imagine a more patriotic event. There are still POW survivors from the 1942 Bataan Death March in attendance, though their numbers dwindle each year. All other Veterans are also generally honored. However, the Wounded Warriors who participate in the full length marathon really deserve respect for their dediction. Fit people find it tough enough to race over desert and mountain terrain. One can only imagine how much tougher it is for amputees!

One of the Wounded Warriors they met this year was Noah, a double amputee. He has a spirit that overcomes obstacles most others would give up on. New on the course this year was a Seeing Eye Dog. Also for the first time, Sam met a survivor of Friendly Fire. The source of the fi re did not mitigate its result, scaring much of his skin, burning off his ears, and blowing off a leg. Yet, under all the scar tissue was an indomitable spirit!

Sam likes to honor a Veteran with this event. This year, he chose Gene Brandon, a long time Clare resident who was sent to Korea twice. One of the reasons Sam chose to honor Gene is that Gene has spent many years helping other Veterans to obtain needed benefits.

Before the marathon, Sam was going over Gene’s discharge papers and noticed that he was eligible for a United Nations Korean Service Medal, although he had never received one because the UN ran out of them. More than 60 years after the fact, Sam was able to obtain one of the medals. Gene received it with much delight.

Rachel chalked up another firstplace win. This was her fourth time in first place, and in three categories, proving her a versatile athlete. This one was in “Female Military Individual Light”[no pack], where she was first both in her age decade, and first over all of the other decades.

Sam has always gone in the “Male Civilian Individual Heavy Pack” category, carrying a pack averaging about 40 pounds over the course. Learning a bit each year, he was able to make his fastest time; 26.2 miles in almost exactly seven hours.

Although this was 26 minutes faster than his first place time in 2010, the race is generally getting

faster, so this earned him second place in his age decade this year.

Gene Brandon was Sam Wienke’s choice to honor this yearbecause of Gene’s efforts to help other veterans.

Gene Brandon was Sam Wienke’s choice to honor this year because of Gene’s efforts to help other veterans.

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