Good road manners save lives
The other day I heard a story that was quite stirring, and made me very proud about U.S. forces and their families here in Okinawa. Actually, it was more than “a story.” It was a statement of immense gratitude based on countless examples and little stories.
The conversation happened at a reception in Ginowan City for a visiting delegation from mainland Japan. Two local offduty firemen and I were talking, and the conversation turned to the great cooperation that exists between the Marine Corps Installations Pacific and Marine Corps Base Camp Butler fire and emergency services and those in the local community, the mutual learning that takes place, and the mutual respect that exists.
One of the local firemen turned to me and said, “And our respect goes out not only to those personnel with whom we interact, but also extends to you and all the other Americans here.”
I asked him what he meant. He continued, “Whenever there is an emergency vehicle on the road, you Americans clear the path to allow us to go through immediately. We can get to the fire, or to the scene of an accident, so much more quickly because of this. You help us save lives.” He then shook my hand repeatedly, and I mean repeatedly, as did his friend from a different fire department.
Not having ever been in their shoes, I could only guess what it must be like trying to rush to the scene of a disaster and navigate their way through traffic knowing that every millisecond counts. I felt their sincerity not only in their eyes but by their warm handshakes.
I asked them if local drivers make room for them on the roadways. They responded, “slowly and only grudgingly.” I said there must be laws for that. They answered, sadly, “yes, but that does not seem to matter. The manners of the public have dropped significantly.”
I have often written about the importance of our being “good ambassadors.” This is yet another concrete example of doing the right thing, which in this case has a direct connection with emergency service personnel being able to help others in need more quickly.
I introduce this episode not to imply that I was right in what I previously wrote, but to say that you are right in your actions and manners on the local roadways. Keep up the good work, and continue to set the example of good driving. Our actions here not only reflect on us, but can also help influence driving manners more positively.
Keep up the good work – I mean – driving.
Eldridge is the deputy assistant chief of staff, G-7, government and external affairs, Marine Corps Installations Pacific.