JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- On board the USS Bataan, veterans Ponato Abalos and Patrick Ganio are a vital part of its legacy.
"This ship wouldn't have been commissioned were it not for your heroism," said CO Erik Ross.
The Bataan is named for the U.S. and Filipino troops who guarded the Bataan Peninsula during World War II.
"Bataan, to them, is a memorial -- a living memorial that their fight during WWII hasn't been forgotten," said Joel Garrido.
These men are the only known survivors left in Jacksonville. The Peninsula fell to the Japanese in 1942 and more than 20,000 service members died during the "Bataan Death March," 65 miles to prisons and camps where opposing forces held them in horrible conditions.
"And then for one week without food except for coffee without sugar," said Patrick Ganio.
Part of Jacksonville's Week of Valor, the crew of today's Bataan taking the time to honor the men of Bataan's past.
"You sir, both of you are true heroes. I am humbled and honored to be in your presence," said Ross.
A touching thank you to two men whose sacrifices, because of this ship, will not soon be forgotten.
First Coast News