Kin Town friendship field meet brings service members, Okinawa residents together
KIN TOWN, OKINAWA, Japan -- A starter pistol fires, splitting the air as children streak by with arms pumping and feet pounding on a red track. Parents cheer and call their children’s names from tents alongside the track as they dart past.
Okinawa residents and service members gathered for the Kin Town Friendship Track and Field Meet May 9, at the Kin Athletic Field, Kin Town, Okinawa.
The meet reinforced the relationship between service members, their families and the Okinawa residents by giving children the opportunity to spend time together and have fun participating in athletic events.
“This event is designed to bring families together through common interests,” said Col. Sean M. McBride, Commanding Officer of the Marine Headquarters Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and a Butte, Montana, native. “That’s how life-long friendships are built. It starts at an early age on a small scale and then builds to something more meaningful.”
Children participated in a variety of events, such as the broad jump and distance races during the meet.
Following each event, the top three competitors stepped onto first, second and third place platforms to receive their awards. The recipients received a medal and a certificate while parents snapped pictures.
“The kids really enjoyed the prizes for winning or placing in competitions, though what they really enjoyed was the chance to play with other kids,” said Lt. Col. Michael D. Reilly, the commanding officer of 3rd Intelligence Battalion, III MEF.
The event reaches beyond existing language barriers through activities that are enjoyed worldwide, according to Takayuki Kayo, the Camp Hansen community relations specialist.
The Okinawa community members and service members worked together to coordinate this event to bridge the gap between the Okinawa community and the military community.
“The mayor of Kin Town and the superintendent of the Kin Town Board of Education extended the invitation to bring in as many American children as possible, because it’s a great event for (American children) and Okinawa children to compete and have fun,” said Kayo. “It’s thanks greatly in part to them, because it is important for them to provide children with that experience.”
Events like this provide children of service members in Okinawa with a unique opportunity to broaden their perspectives and meet people with different cultural backgrounds, according to Reilly, a Houston, Texas, native.
“We are neighbors out here in Okinawa,” said Reilly. “Living out here with my kids, I want to see them develop a true appreciation for other cultures and other people in the world, and it’s events like these that help us connect with others.”