Marines share Thanksgiving traditions at nursing home
KIN, OKINAWA, Japan -- The sweet aroma of pumpkin and apple pies flow through the room as Hikari Ga Oka Nursing Home residents make their way to their tables, casting longing glances at the turkey centerpiece.
Service members with 7th Communications Battalion shared a Thanksgiving meal with the residents and staff of the nursing home Nov. 21 in Kin Town, continuing a two-decade old annual tradition.
“It’s a blessing because they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in Japan,” said Navy Lt. Stephen F. Brown, the chaplain for 7th Comm. Bn., III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF. “It’s an American holiday and we bring that American tradition to the nursing home so they can enjoy one of our most special holidays.”
Traditionally in the U.S., families celebrate Thanksgiving with their loved ones by gathering together for a day to share in a feast and give thanks for what they hold most dear.
For service members stationed on Okinawa, Thanksgiving is a time for sharing and connecting with the community who are their neighbors and hosts.
“I think Thanksgiving is a great time to open your home,” said Maj. Matthew C. Frazier, the acting battalion commander of 7th Comm. Bn. “In this case, it is a time to extend your home to celebrate the season.”
To honor this custom, the Marines and residents sang a song, ate traditional Thanksgiving food and spent time getting to know one another.
Thanksgiving is just one of the many events that the nursing home residents and the service members share annually to promote lasting friendships.
“We’ll celebrate Thanksgiving and we’ll celebrate Christmas,” said Brown. “Those are two of the big holidays we share with them and in turn, they share with us a rice-pounding (event), a moon viewing (event) and an end of the year party.
“It’s a cultural exchange, and it gives us a greater appreciation for their background and the things they appreciate,” added Brown.
The service members, residents and staff of the nursing home improved relationships with each other by playing charades and talking using the shared words they could both understand.
“I talked to one of the young Marines next to me,” said Sae Afuso, a resident of the nursing home. “The Marine happened to speak a little Japanese, so we could communicate.”
Throughout the years, the battalion’s Marines and sailors have continued to volunteer their time with the nursing home, bonding and learning the traditions that the residents value.
“The really neat thing about this is that we have an exclusive relationship with this place,” said Frazier. “They’ve come to know us over the years and it will continue on as long as there is a 7th Communications Battalion and a Hikari Ga Oka (Nursing Home).”
Overall, the Marines and residents enjoyed their time with each other while sharing the Thanksgiving experience.
“Today’s event was very enjoyable,” said Afuso. “I really appreciate it and the meal was very delicious.”