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Fourth annual Clemson 8 Challenge will honor POWs on March 9


The fourth annual Clemson 8 Challenge, created to honor Clemson University alumni who suffered as prisoners of war during World War II, will take place March 9-16. All are welcome to join the challenge, from marathoners to exercise aficionados to casual walkers. Participants can complete the 8-, 14- or 26.2-mile event in one day or over eight days.

The on-campus event will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 9, at the Upper Intramural Fields (Lot 2 during football season) across from Fike Recreation Center.

The event was created in 2020 so that Brig. Gen. Beverly “Ben” Skardon ’38 could continue his annual tradition of walking 8 ½ miles to honor his fallen brothers-in-arms. Skardon was the last living member of the six Clemson POWs who survived the Bataan Death March. He was well known as the only survivor of the actual Bataan Death March who walked in the annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, one of the most challenging and popular marathons in the world. The event is a pilgrimage for veterans, active-duty military members, supporters, and the few remaining survivors and family members of the men who perished in the march, the POW camps and the Death Ships.

Col. Ben Skardon (green cap), a 1938 graduate of Clemson University, WWII POW, recipient of two Silver Stars, and survivor of the Bataan Death March, walks in the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, NM, for the 12th time at the age of 101, March 17, 2019. (Photo by Ken Scar)

Skardon walked in the memorial march 12 times, most often a distance of 8 ½ miles, beginning in 2007 when he was 89. His last walk at White Sands was in 2019, at age 101. Skardon planned to walk in 2020 and 2021, but the events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For Skardon, the annual trip to White Sands was the “carrot” that got him up and walking every day.

A team of students, veterans, alumni and friends created the Clemson 8 Challenge to give him back that carrot and his chance to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. In 2022, the event expanded to honor POWs from all wars. Today, there are 25 known Clemson POWs.

Skardon participated in the first Clemson 8 Challenge in 2021, walking 8 miles — a little over a mile a day for six consecutive days — four months shy of his 104th birthday.

All proceeds from the Clemson 8 Challenge benefit Clemson military-affiliated students via an endowment to send a group of them to White Sands to compete in Skardon’s beloved memorial march every year. This year, for the first time, an all-female team will compete alongside the traditional team of ROTC cadets.

Skardon passed away on November 15, 2021, at age 104.

Sign up for the in-person or virtual event here.

Several hundred people of all ages participated in the third annual Clemson 8 Challenge March 11, 2023.