Marines understand it's all about the children
CAMP FOSTER - Every year, the Marine Corps in Okinawa, and throughout Japan, hosts hundreds of events, big and small, where intercultural exchanges take place, new friendships are started, and existing relationships are strengthened. These community relations activities include English language classes, festivals, open house days, base tours, clean-ups, sporting events, homestay programs, and many, many more programs. (For more, see our website at: http://www.okinawa.marines.mil/ )
One recent interaction that I was personally involved in took place on a very hot Saturday morning this September. The venue was Camp Kinser, known locally as Makiminato Hokyuchi, located along part of the westernmost coast of Urasoe City, in southern-central Okinawa Prefecture. Approximately 110 local residents, including several dozen children affiliated with a local preschool in Urasoe City, visited the camp for a tour and short briefing, playing at one of the playgrounds on base and a mini-game of soccer, and lunch at the Food Court.
Most of the participants had never been on that base before, despite it being close by. Many others had not had the opportunity to visit in quite a while. It was wonderful to hear their stories, and to interact with people of Urasoe City, of all generations. But it was the children who probably had the most fun.
Today, I received a note of thanks from the principal of the school, and some comments about the day, which I wish too share here.
“Thank you so very much for responding to our request,” the letter begins, “to visit Camp Kinser. It was the first time for us—the children, the guardians, and the grandparents—to plan and participate in such an event as visiting a base. The children loved playing in the grass on the field, and were surprised at how nice it was kept and how much there was of it. Moreover, you played with the kids, even teaching them soccer, which they seemed to enjoy very much. We hope to visit other bases in the future, and play with the American children there. In addition, everyone enjoyed eating at the Food Court and everyone said the pizza, sandwiches, and hamburgers were delicious. The children continue to talk about the visit every day and say they wish to go again. I am so grateful that we had this opportunity, one that brought such great smiles to the children’s faces. I hope further events like this can be held. I wish to thank the camp commander and you, Dr. Robert, for hearing our request and arranging this opportunity.”
I was so very happy to receive this warm note, to know the kids truly enjoyed that day. The Marines, like their brothers and sisters in the other branches of the U.S. Military, and the civilians, like me, truly enjoy being here and wish to be the best friends possible to our neighbors in Okinawa. Thank you to our visitors for visiting us that day and sharing your day and yourselves with us.
Eldridge is a 24-year resident of Japan and serves as the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-7 (Government and External Affairs), MCIPAC. He can be contacted at: Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org .