Residents, nursing home staff feast with service members
KIN TOWN, Okinawa, Japan — Service members with 7th Communication Battalion provided a Thanksgiving meal for nearly 200 elderly Japanese residents and staff during a community relations project at Hikarigaoka Nursing Home here Nov. 15.
The Thanksgiving dinner was a continuation of the relationship the battalion and the nursing home has developed over the past two decades.
“This event is one of the most important we have,” said Navy Lt. Stephen F. Brown, the chaplain for 7th Comm. Bn., which is part of III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF. “We are able to come together and enjoy a meal with our ‘family members’ at the nursing home.”
The event was significant because it allowed the service members to interact and communicate with the residents and staff of the nursing home, according to Brown.
“The residents’ warm welcome and amazing hospitality make it easy for the service members to mingle with the residents and staff,” said Brown.
For some members of the battalion, the dinner and visit was a new and unique opportunity.
“This is my first time at the nursing home,” said Sgt. Richard M. Campbell, a data systems technician with the battalion. “I hope I can come back to participate in future events.”
Events like this create stronger relationships between service members and their Okinawa neighbors, according to Ayako Ginoza, the facility manager of the nursing home.
“The residents and staff here always look forward to every time the service members visit our home,” said Ginoza. “It really makes their day that much better.”
The opportunity to share the Thanksgiving holiday with others also brightens the holiday for service members stationed overseas, according to Campbell.
“With service members being so far away from home, they sometimes feel homesick, and that emptiness is filled by the warm welcoming from the residents of the nursing home,” said Campbell. “Even with the language barrier between us, the residents of the home take us in as if we are family.”
As the service members shared a meal in the family atmosphere, good fortune was brought to everyone, according to Ginoza.
“There is an old Japanese saying that when you laugh or smile, it brings good fortune,” said Ginoza. “With all the happiness that was brought to the home today, I have no doubt that we all will have good fortune.”