MAYPORT, Fla. -- Two survivors of the "Bataan Death March" were honored on the flight deck of the USS Bataan for their sacrifice for our country.
These young sailors aboard the USS Bataan were able to shake the hand of a hero Thursday morning. Donato Abalos and Patrick Ganio are true examples of courage. Both men are World War II veterans and survivors of the "Bataan Death March." Joel Garrido, Donato Abalos' translator says, "He's excited about coming here on the ship and being recognized after all these years."
Abalos and Ganio were honored aboard the USS Bataan in Mayport for their courageous service many years ago. U.S. Navy Captain Erik Ross says, "The heroism of these survivors of the death march is amazing. And it's humbling."
These brave veterans are a part of a special group of World War II heroes who were captured by Japanese forces in April 1942. The tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were forced to march for days in the scorching heat through the jungle. Thousands died. Those who survived faced the hardship of a prisoner of war camp. "This recognition of our world war two veterans is not really enough because they fought and they served our country," says veteran Enrique Aquino.
The survivors were honored by several members of the U.S. Navy and the Filipino American Veteran Association Honor Guard. And both men were grateful for the appreciation. Patrick Ganio says,"Thank you very much for the reception and honoring us."
Tomorrow night, the USS Bataan will host the Navy-Marine Corp Classic. The basketball game between Florida and Georgetown starts at 9 p.m.