Kinser tree lighting ceremony, holiday parade endures rain
CAMP KINSER, OKINAWA, Japan -- The Okinawa rain god or “kami-sama,” Fusamarah, had struck Camp Kinser a watery blow once already when a downpour cancelled Kinser Fest this fall. It seemed as if the mythical deity tried yet again to ruin a Kinser event, but the Christmas tree lighting ceremony endured.
Marines with Camp Kinser Operations, Marine Corps Installations Pacific-Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan, hosted the 2014 Camp Kinser Tree Lighting Ceremony and Holiday Parade November 28 at Camp Kinser. It was open to the public, and approximately 300 service members, families and Okinawa community members watched a parade, performances and, as a finale, a Christmas tree being lit.
“Being with III Marine Expeditionary Force – we are the busiest MEF in the Marine Corps, so it’s really important to recognize our time here on this island, recognize our families and our traditions,” said Col. Edmund J. Bowen, camp commander of Camp Kinser and commanding officer of Headquarters Regiment, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF. “It’s important that we share these traditions with our local neighbors and be good ambassadors.”
The weather created some adversity around the time the parade started.
“We were all working pretty diligently when the rain came,” said Lance Cpl. Victoria Casillamadrid, an intelligence specialist with Headquarters Regiment, 3rd MLG , now currently serving with Kinser Operations, MCIPAC. “It was pretty bad. We were expecting it to drizzle, not pour on us.”
The event didn’t get cancelled, though; instead, Marines pushed forward with the ceremony.
The ceremony began with a parade of military vehicles decorated as floats in the spirit of the Christmas holiday. A 7-ton truck had a caricature of the Grinch from the story “The Grinch Stole Christmas” adorned on the front of its grill. Marines dressed Humvees in gift wrap, Christmas ornaments and door decorations.
“Our staff did a wonderful job,” said Staff Sgt. Casey Lanier, a Camp Kinser maintenance management specialist with Headquarters Regiment, currently serving as a facilities chief with Kinser Operations, MCIPAC . “One thing I noticed is that the Marines put time into their floats. They found a way to decorate those vehicles, and they came out to put on a show.”
Included in the parade were a mix of American and Japanese boy scouts, taiko drummers and hula dancers.
The staff tried to make everyone as comfortable as possible, according to Lanier, a native of Jacksonville, North Carolina. They provided hot chocolate and cookies, and a choir sang Christmas carols.
During the parade, corpsmen tossed candy followed by toothbrushes into the crowd, in an attempt to promote dental health because of all the sweets eaten during the holidays.
The crowd – mainly the children – flocked when Santa Claus appeared riding a fire truck with the Camp Kinser fire department. A line of families quickly formed, elated to meet St. Nick and ask for presents and pictures.
“My favorite part was when Santa Claus got off the fire truck and all the kids rushed him,” said Casillasmadrid, a native of Tucson, Arizona. “We had to escort him just to get him to his spot. I was surprised; there were a lot of local nationals who attended this and they had an equal amount of excitement to meet (Santa Claus).”
Santa Claus wasn’t the only character in attendance that day. McGruff the Crime Dog and the D.A.R.E. Lion, two American mascots, were surrounded by the children, too.
“The kids really liked (the mascots), pretty much tackled them,” said Casillasmadrid.
Everything led toward the most anticipated part of the day. As the rain disappeared, the crowd shifted and huddled around the tree, waiting. Hundreds of bulbs adorning the huge Christmas tree flashed on, illuminating each face in its brilliant glow. The ceremony ended, signifying the coming of Christmas and the rapport between Okinawa community members and Marines.
“Events like these forge good relationships with the local community,” said Bowen. “That’s from the heart, the way I see it.”