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Two men honor Bataan Memorial Death March with 26.2-mile marathon in Paso Robles 

Two local men honor Bataan Memorial Death March with 26.2-mile marathon

Leo Castillo and Joe Zeppa.

–On Sunday, US Army Staff Sergeant Leo Castillo and his friend Joe Zeppa completed their own version of a 26.2-mile marathon in honor of the Bataan Memorial Death March.

The Bataan Memorial Death March is a race that honors servicemen who were taken as POWS during WWII in 1942. The captive soldiers were marched for days, approximately 65 miles through the scorching jungles of the Philippines, many to their deaths.

The annual marathon, which was going to happen March 21 in White Sands, New Mexico, was canceled due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts. So the two friends decided to take up the challenge on their own in Paso Robles.

“My buddy Joe Zeppa, a former marine, signed up for this race and due to COVID-19 this event was taken away from him,” said Castillo. “It broke my heart to hear that he had been training and waiting for this day for nearly a year and that in an instant his hard work seems to be for nothing. I told Joe if he came up here – he lives in Glendale Arizona, outside Phoenix – I would walk the marathon with him.”

The two men completed a 26.2-mile memorial marathon on their own here in Paso Robles in the rain. “As we say in the military if it ain’t raining we ain’t training. I never liked that saying and my feet could attest to that at this very moment,” said Castillo. “Those men endured a horrific experience and we wanted to honor them with our own memorial race here in Paso Robles. We weren’t about to allow the COVID-19 deter us from honoring the fallen.”

Castillo lives with his family in Paso Robles, works at Camp Roberts, is a Paso Robles Planning Commissioner, and board member of the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation.



About the author: Publisher Scott Brennan

Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or follow his blog.