Bataan Death March Survivor Honored at Park Forest Memorial Day Service


Dr. Olivar, a survivor of the Bataan Death March, sits between his son Robert and wife Therese. (Photo: Wendy Heise)

Photo Gallery: Memorial Day 2009

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Maybe it was the steel gray sky above the flags flying at half-mast. Perhaps it was the soul-stirring singing of the National Anthem by Hanover High School student Ella Swinney. Or, it might have been the remarks of Past Commander John M. Ryan and his introduction of Bataan Death March survivor Dr. Poriano “Sake” Olivar. Whatever it was, this year’s Memorial Day observance in DownTown Park Forest seemed somehow different, with several speakers coming coming close to tears as they made their presentations.

The ceremony began shortly after 11 a.m. with a welcome by Master of Ceremonies SAL Commander Bill Patterson. This was followed by the singing of the National Anthem and an opening prayer by Pastor Anthony Dusso of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Oak Forest.

The Legion Wreath was placed by Placing of Legion Wreath by WWII members Bob Brown and George Nero.

John Ryan gave a history of the Bataan Death March, “When the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, they also hit instillations in the South Pacific,” where U.S. troops had already been deployed. “The forces were albe to survive for only four months. Their supplies were cut off. They couldn’t get reinforcements, so they had to surrender in April of 1942. It was the start of the Bataan Death March.

“Now, the march was six days and six nights, a forced march, covered up to 80 miles. There were reported 76,000 people. 60,000 from the Phillipine Army, and 10,000 Americans and civilians.The Japanese had only anticipated 25,000, so the marchers were tortured, executed, bayonetted, and left to die.

“They finally ended up in Camp O’Donnell, where they stayed as prisoners until the end of World War II, which was August of 1945.”

Commander Ryan told some of Dr. Poriano “Sake” Olivar’s story, “He was a 17-year-old soldier in the Phillipine Army when he was captured, and during the march or the internment at the camp, his leg was amputated.” Ryan spoke about a Memorial Day parade he once planned when he asked Dr. Olivar to ride with the Park Forest Legion, “He said, ‘Ride, hell! I’ll be glad to march with you guys!'”

Dr. Olivar attended the program with his wife Therese and son Robert. Now retired, he served on the staff at St. James Hospital for thirty years.

An Auxiliary Wreath was placed by Ladies Auxiliary President and Dilan Gomih, Governor of Girls State 2009.

Resident Penny Shnay commented favorably on the ceremony, but did offer one comment on the prayers said to open and close the event, “It would be good if those that give prayers in public would acknowledge or realize that not all of us are Christians, and not all of us do pray to Jesus.”

Names of Park Forest residents killed in action and names of Post 1198 members who died during the previous year were read by Bill Patterson, his voice shaking with emotion. One of the deceased was Patterson’s father-in-law, Charlie Osbourne.

These are names of the Park Forest residents killed in action:

Lt. Col. James A. Branch USAF
Warrent Officer Rodney O. Davis USAF
Cpl. Terry King USMC
Sgt. John A. LaBundy USA
PFC Gary R. McHugh USA
PFC Joseph J. Passavanti USA

The names of these six residents are on the plaque on the north side of the Village Green under the flags.

Photo Gallery: Memorial Day 2009