Marines make lasting impressions at day care center
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa, Japan -- First impressions leave a lasting impact with most people, especially children. As children grow, many reflect on past experiences and remember those who influenced their futures. Positive interaction with other nations and understanding diverse cultures and personalities are important things that make lasting impressions on youth.
Smiles were wide and laughter loud as Marines and sailors of Camp Schwab visited Himawari Gakudo Day Care Center May 11 to build such a relationship.
The day care center hosts more than 70 children ranging from ages 5-12, and the visit helped introduce the Marines to the children, according to Navy Lt. Reginald E. Jones, the chaplain for 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, which is currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program.
“When 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, got to Okinawa, they hit the ground running with training,” said Jones. “Now that we have been out here for a while, it was time for us to get more involved with the community.”
Following introductions, the children impressed the service members with a demonstration of their ability to use a soroban. A soroban is comprised of an odd number of rods, each with beads on them that children use to complete mathematical equations.
Once the ice was broken, the children and service members began playing card games, darts, musical instruments and various sporting activities.
“I was so pleased to see the happy faces on all of the children today,” said Yoichiro Higa, the director of the day care center. “The kids get very few opportunities to meet and interact with the American military members. This was a great chance for them to play together. I hope this interaction was one of many to come in the future.”
Community relations events like these offer the chance for Marines and sailors to experience a unique piece of Okinawa culture, according to Lance Cpl. Ricardo Gonzalez, a Marine Air-Ground Task Force planning specialist with 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF.
“I always enjoy spending time with kids and knew this would be a great opportunity,” said Gonzalez. “I figure if I’m out here having fun, maybe I can go back and encourage more Marines to participate.”
These children are most likely the same ages of some of the Marines’ younger siblings, according to Higa.
“I hope this relationship will continue to grow,” said Higa. “The service members are always welcome here, and I know the children will look forward to future events.”
Even with a slight language barrier between them, the service members and children did not hesitate to interact and relate with each other.
“I noticed one of the Marines was wearing a Japanese cartoon shirt,” said an 11-year-old boy at the day care center. “I thought this was very cool and enjoyed spending time with the Marines.”
With the recent resurgence of the unit deployment program, the Marines were able to get involved with the day care center after more than a decade, according to Fumio Iha, the community relations specialist for Camp Schwab.
“The day went exactly as we had hoped,” said Iha. “With today’s success, I hope we can establish a consistent presence at the day care center in the future.”