Marines, sailors continue building relations in Sendai
SENDAI, Miyagi, Japan -- More than 40 Marines and sailors with Alpha Battery visited a facility for people with intellectual disabilities and distributed donated gifts to schools and orphanages surrounding the Ojojihara Maneuver Area in Miyagi prefecture, Japan, March 1-2 at the conclusion of Artillery Relocation Training Program 12-4.
The battery, currently assigned to 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program, reached out to children in Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi prefecture.
“Toys for Tots is a program that reaches out to families who are often less fortunate,” said Navy Lt. Matthew C. Fore, the chaplain for 3rd Bn., 12th Marine Regiment. “We incorporated the program into our visits with the local community to help out and share a part of our culture with children in need around Sendai.”
March 11, 2013, marks the two-year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami, and this is one of many visits since Operation Tomodachi that a Marine Corps unit or senior Marine Corps leaders have made to the Sendai area, Fore added.
During Operation Tomodachi, Okinawa-based Marines and sailors deployed to mainland Japan to offer assistance to the government of Japan and provide vital resources to assist recovery efforts at the request of the Japanese government and in coordination with the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Forces Japan.
“We will never forget the Marines’ efforts during Operation Tomodachi,” said Munehisa Ogawa, the director of Asaina-Gakuen, a facility for people with intellectual disabilities in Sendai. “We are very pleased that they were able to take the time to visit with the members of our facility.”
The Marines visited the facility, where they performed several traditional nursery songs and played team-building games with its residents.
“Knowing that we were the first training unit to visit this area since the earthquake, they welcomed us with open arms and went out of their way to show their appreciation for Operation Tomodachi, as well as our visit,” said Fore.
The Marines also visited the Sayurien children’s home, an all-girls orphanage housing more than 50 children, and donated gifts from the Toys for Tots campaigns on Okinawa and Yokota Air Base on mainland Japan.
“We have been looking forward to seeing the Marines here for a while,” said Hisako Takeuchi, the principal of the children’s home. “I think that the children benefit from the presence of the Marines because it allows them to be exposed to new people who are not familiar with the area.”
Marines also visited the Ohira Manyo Kodomoen nursery home, a facility with more than 200 residents, where the staff and students entertained the Marines by playing traditional instruments, dancing and singing.
Upon conclusion of the Marines’ visits, the Sendai community showed enthusiasm for continuing relations between the U.S. forces and local organizations and expressed a desire for future visits by Marines, according to Fore.
“I believe we met our goal, which was to get out in the community and bring joy to those who were affected by the disaster two years ago,” said Fore. “We also established connections and a lasting friendship with the Sendai community we will continue to build.”