Pub. 4 2022 Issue 3

Steve Loftis (left) with friend Dick Waller who accompanied him the last 12 miles of the 26.2-mile Bataan Memorial Death March virtual edition in 2021. Loftis believed in serving, too. He joined the Air Force after high school. He became an Army helicopter pilot. He spent four years in active duty and served for more than three decades afterward, mostly in the Nebraska National Guard. “The military has more to do with who I am than any other aspect of my life,” he said. “And as I developed my military understanding, Max became more of a question mark in my history. Who was he? How do I get to know him?” The VFW in Tekamah is named for Lockhart and a pair of classmates who joined the Army and shipped out to the Philippines after basic training. Three Nebraska soldiers out of more than 60,000 American and Filipino troops who were captured when the Japanese took the Bataan Peninsula on April 9, 1942. The soldiers were forced to march through the jungle in the stif ling heat to prison camps 65 miles away. Many died on the days-long march, sickened by malaria, beaten by the Japanese, a torturous trek that would earn the title Bataan Death March. Hundreds more—including Lockhart and his Tekamah classmates—died in Japanese POW camps. Loftis heard about the memorial march at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in the early ’90s. But he was busy then. Being a dad, working his civilian job as a comptroller, and serving in the guard as command chief warrant officer. Then, in 2009, he retired from the military and three years later, he retired from his civilian job and put on a rucksack and started to train. He’d long been a marathon runner. He helped start the Nebraska Guard involvement in the Lincoln Marathon and served as team captain the first two years. He was naturally competitive. A guy who liked to push himself and his body. And he knew a little about Lockhart, his mother’s brother. He knew Max came from a big family. He knew his loved ones called him Sam, although he didn’t know why. He knew his uncle had played high school football. That he was strong. And he guessed that times were hard in Burt County when he enlisted in the Army. “I’m suspecting he joined because there was no other way to make a living.” Loftis spent the fall and winter of 2012 training for his first march. He found a photograph in his aunt’s family album. Max, the high school senior, smiling for the camera, his head tilted, wearing a white shirt and a polka-dot tie. He digitized it, made a copy, pinned it to the back of his rucksack and set off for New Mexico. He kept going back. In 2019, shoulder surgery stopped him. And in 2020, the pandemic canceled the march altogether. Loftis competes in what’s called the heavy military division of the march, making the 26.2-mile trek in full combat gear, carrying 35 pounds on his back. 17 nebraska society of cpas W W W . N E S C P A . O R G