Okinawa families make splash with service members
OURA WAN BEACH, OKINAWA, Japan -- Students of the Asunaro Nursery School in Nago City splashed and played Aug. 10 during a day at the beach with Marines and sailors of Combat Assault Battalion.
At Oura Wan Beach, students, their family members and school staff spent time with Marines and sailors with CAB, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, as part of an ongoing relationship between the school and the battalion.
Volunteers with CAB make monthly visits to the school, teaching basic English phrases and words, as well as proper pronunciation.
Fumio Iha, the Camp Schwab community relations specialist, coordinated with the CAB chaplain, Navy Lt. Steven K. Mayfield, to invite the children to the beach with their family members and school staff, so they could see the benefits of previous interactions.
“The service members have been meeting with the children at the school almost every month,” said Iha. “This was a great opportunity for the parents of the children to see the service members who volunteer with their children. It was a great experience to look around and see everyone enjoying themselves, and we definitely plan to coordinate future activities like this.”
While the beach event was open to anyone from CAB who wanted to attend, the majority were the Marines and sailors who volunteered for the English-teaching visits, according to 2nd Lt. Ty Hogan, a ground intelligence officer with CAB.
“I think being on this island it is imperative to remember the importance of this relationship,” said Hogan. “I am extremely impressed with the Marines and sailors who continue to volunteer and for those who offered the children an opportunity to see familiar faces. We all signed up to make a difference, and the Marines and sailors definitely did that.”
The group swam, held footraces, and built sand castles throughout the event.
“The biggest thing for us was just the opportunity to be able to participate,” said Sanae Gibo, the school principal. “While we are very thankful for the monthly service members’ visits to teach English, it is events like these that the kids will remember.”
While the English-teaching visits will continue, the students, their families and school staff look forward to future interactions outside of a school setting, according to Gibo.
“We hope to continue these events with the service members as often as we can,” said Gibo. “Many people have no idea (about the positive) impact this can have on the children’s future.”