Father, son restore sign on Camp Courtney
CAMP COURTNEY, Japan - On a hot and humid August morning, Maj. Jonathan M. George stumbled upon an old and decrepit-looking sign during his morning run. Unbeknown to George, the sign, which was only about 30 feet from his military housing residence on Camp Courtney, marked the location of an old Okinawa shrine.
“Before I even knew what it was, I looked at the sign and immediately wanted to fix it,” said George, an intelligence officer with III Marine Expeditionary Force. “I’m a handyman, always have been. When I see something that needs to be fixed, I naturally want to take on the task.”
George reached-out to his chain of command to figure out how he could restore it, and he learned that it was on a list to be fixed.
“When they told me it was scheduled to be fixed within the next three to four years, I (volunteered) to do it myself,” said George. “I figured it would be a good project for me and my son.”
Using his personal brushes, scrapers and paint, he and his son began restoring a piece of Okinawa history.
“My daddy let me do a lot of the scraping and painting,” said Nicholas J. George, a first-grader at Bechtel Elementary School. “Even though I really like the beach, this has been my favorite thing I have done so far on Okinawa.”
The shrine stands at a sacred place known as Tengan Koshimori, where guardian deities of Tengan Village reside and Okinawa community members pray.
Throughout many of the installations on Okinawa, shrines are commonly seen by service members but remain off-limits out of respect to the Okinawa community.
While George and his son worked on the wooden structure that held the shrine’s sign, the sign itself was taken to a metal shop for restoration.
“Someone from base personnel was here almost immediately to take the sign to the metal shop,” said George. “After about a month, it was back and looking brand new.”
Even with the busy schedule familiar to most military families, only two short months had passed before the sign’s restoration was complete.
“We spent a lot of time getting rid of all of the moss, mold and old paint that was on the structure,” said George. “Knowing that we had the opportunity to do our part and give back to the Okinawa community made it all worth it in the end.”
For George, the self-proclaimed handyman, restoration of the sign was nothing new to him.
“It is something I wasn’t surprised about when I heard it because of the kind of person he is,” said Col. Sean M. McBride, the assistant chief of staff, G-2, intelligence and security, III MEF. “I was impressed with his initiative to take the time and notice the damage to the sign that many people have probably walked by in the past.
“The fact that he involved his son to give back to the community with him will influence him for life and make him stop and think how to make the community better when he gets older,” added McBride.
Now, as George laces up his running shoes and heads out the door, he can run knowing that the interest and initiative displayed by himself, his son and the Marine Corps revived a small piece of Okinawa history.