Henoko residents, Marines ‘frame’ future through bowling
CAMP SCHWAB, OKINAWA, Japan -- Marines hosted a night of bowling with members from the Henoko Friendship Committee Nov. 25 at Camp Schwab as part of an annual event that strengthens ties with the local community and the installation.
The bowling events between the Marines and Henoko Friendship Committee started in 1985.
“We have been meeting with the Henoko Friendship Committee for decades now,” said Col. David L. Odom, from Hartsville, South Carolina, and the commanding officer for the 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “The idea of a bowling event was brought up in our last meeting (with the committee).”
Marines from the regiment worked together to set up the event as way to bring back old traditions.
“The Japanese love to bowl,” said 1st Sgt. Jonathan B. McClary, from North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, and a company first sergeant with the regiment. “Camp Schwab and Henoko have the strongest community relationship on the island. Our goal is to bowl at least once a year.”
Many of the locals enjoyed bowling with the Marines as well, according to multiple committee members.
“The last time I bowled with Marines was 20 years ago,” said Munekatsu Kayo, the mayor of Henoko district. “It’s really nice, I enjoy bowling with Marines.”
In 1985 the committee and the Marines brought a friendly trophy into play. The winner, either the committee members or the Marines, hold onto the trophy until the next event.
“I want to meet more Marines,” said Futoshi Kohagura, the Henoko Treasurer. “I like to get together with the Marines. I (have not) bowled with Marines for 20 years, although I have played other sports with them.”
“I went to their sports day and will go to their dance next week,” said Lt. Col. Christopher L. Medlin, from Wilmington, North Carolina, and the battalion commander for 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, currently assigned to 4th Marines under the unit deployment program. “Every opportunity there is to interact with locals, we go. Every month we get together.”
Marines often participate in local events with the committee members, increasing the strong bond that Henoko has formed with Camp Schwab over decades of collaboration.
“I’ve always taken part in all of the events,” said Samuel H. Epperson, a retired Marine sergeant major and 24 year Henoko resident. “You need to be involved in the community you live in.”
The committee and Marines from Camp Schwab meet monthly to discuss locally related topics and to plan more events like this.
Camp Schwab is endearingly considered the 11th residential district of Henoko, according to Ritsu Miyagi, the secretary general for Henoko.
“There’s no other place on Okinawa that has the community ties and friendship of Camp Schwab and Henoko,” said Epperson, from Chattanooga, Tennessee.