Bill would rename Las Cruces veterans clinic in honor of Bataan soldiers

LAS CRUCES - The Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Las Cruces would be renamed the Las Cruces Bataan Memorial Clinic under legislation proposed by the state's federal delegation.

The Las Cruces Community-Based Outpatient Clinic, 3401 Del Rey Blvd., opened in April 2018

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Reps. Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.), Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) announced the legislation on Monday, Veterans Day.

Former U.S. Rep Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) introduced a similar bill in September 2018, but it was not enacted.

The legislation would commemorate the over 1,800 New Mexico National Guardsmen and the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery regiments who defended U.S. military allies in the Philippines after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. In April 1942, U.S. and Filipino troops were taken prisoners of war and forced to march over 65 miles in tropical heat without food or water. Nearly 1,000 American troops and over 9,000 Filipino troops died from starvation, exhaustion, or abuse in what is now known as the Bataan Death March.

Nearly half of the New Mexicans who served in Bataan died in battle, as prisoners of war, and after liberation.

The Bataan Memorial Death March is recognized each March at White Sands Missile Range.

Want more news like this? Sign up for an online subscription.

Several dignitaries' comments were included in a news release about the legislation to rename the clinic.

“Every American owes the courageous troops who fought in Bataan a debt that can never be repaid,” Udall said. "As we dedicate this clinic to remembering Bataan, we also rededicate our efforts to honor our veterans and celebrate their contributions to our communities.”

Torres Small said: "Renaming the Las Cruces clinic will ensure these heroes, who faithfully served and made the ultimate sacrifice, are memorialized for future generations to honor and learn from, on Veterans Day and every day in between.”

“The renaming of the (Las Cruces CBOC) is a testimony to the deep history of the Bataan participants and their survivors. It’s a rich part of New Mexican veteran history. Per capita, New Mexico lost more people during World War II, largely in part because of the Bataan March,” said Rod Gajewski, member of Las Cruces Mayor’s Veteran Advisory Board.