Members Leading the Way: Ben's Road to Bataan

Name:      Ben Stephens 

Age:         37 years old

Location:  Fort Collins

Military Affiliation & Job: Missouri National Guard (2005-2013) Medic

Current Occupation: Nurse Anesthetist

FOCO Chapter Captain

Health4Heroes Member Since Apr 2022

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

Several things inspired me:

1. My National Guard Unit hosted a Bataan Qualification Half Marathon. I assisted in Medical Coverage for this event and got inspired by my battle buddy who said the Bataan Death March was one the hardest things she’s ever done. 

2. In 2022, during the healing of my mental health and ACL repair recovery, I used this time to train for the challenge, however, the live event got canceled due to COVID restrictions. Instead, I completed a virtual Bataan Death March on the country roads from FOCO to Wellington called the “Bacon Strip”.  During this training for the virtual event, I started an Instagram account and blog called “Conquest Fear”.  The idea behind it was to show my process from ACL repair and recovery to being able to complete a marathon. As someone who hates to run, I wanted to display motivation and awareness of the trials and tribulations that military personnel endure as they courageously risk their lives.

How have you prepared physically and mentally for the march?

I started training right after Christmas, and with the help of my cousin coaching me, I am currently running up to 32 miles a week. With about 10 weeks of total training, my body has handled the 5 days of running a week pretty well. On the mental preparation side, sometimes I listen to podcasts and other times I turn it all off for self-reflection. At times during my training, I experience moments of mental or emotional breakdown. It's during these moments that I remind myself of the purpose behind my efforts, reflecting on the sacrifices made during the Bataan Conflict, as well as the mental health challenges faced by fellow service members and veterans.

What are you looking forward to about this experience?

Testing all of my training during one of the most challenging marathons in the world. Having the ability to meet and connect with the men who survived the actual Bataan. Also, completing this event with the Health4Heroes group. There’s nothing like suffering through an extremely difficult physical event with other people with similar motivations and outlooks, it’s going to be very rewarding!


The Bataan Memorial Death March honors the soldiers who defended the Philippines during World War II. How does participating in this event contribute to the remembrance and tribute to these veterans for you?

We're memorializing those veterans through this event. Participating gives me more understanding, appreciation, and sympathy for the plight that they were voluntarily put in with an unknown outcome. 

Have you participated in similar events before?

I have participated in triathlons, the virtual Bataan in 2022, and the obligatory 15k road march that everyone does in the Military. I have never done something on this level before.

Are there any strategies or techniques that you plan to use to keep yourself motivated and focused during the march?

I might take some music and podcasts with me.  Considering I am going with a big group, I will focus on my teammates and being in the moment. When we get to mile 22, we will encounter 6-8 inches of sandy terrain, and from what I understand, it will suck the soul right out of you. I don’t tend to worry so much about what my motivation is going to be at that time. I approach those situations as they come, just to see where my brain and my heart fall in line at that moment.

Are you bringing anything significant with you on the march?

Colloid bandages for blisters and I may wear my dad’s dog tags. I want to wear a few name tapes of a few of my personal friends and acquaintances who have lost their lives. 

What is your overall goal?

I want to finish the march strong and support my Health4Heroes teammates.

How will you celebrate your completion of the Bataan Death March?

Since it falls the day before St. Patty’s, I will probably celebrate with the team with a shot of good bourbon or whiskey. Toasting to our victory and the fallen who aren’t with us anymore.

Anything else you want to add?

I want to let people know, if I can do something like this, anybody can! There’s nothing about me physically, mentally, or emotionally that’s special. I just decided one day to do something different. There’s no reason to assume that something’s too hard or physically out of our realm of possibility. You just have to have the willingness to put in the work on the mental, emotional, and physical front.