Service members ride for awareness of human trafficking
CAMP FOSTER — Service members from all branches of service participated in a 212-mile bike ride throughout Okinawa Nov. 1-2 to raise awareness of human trafficking.
The ride was in support of the organization ‘Stop Slavery,’ which began as a project of the American Military Youth Ministries in Okinawa. The organization spreads awareness of
human trafficking across the Asia-Pacific region and manages an orphanage in Siem Reap, Cambodia, for children affected by human trafficking.
Human trafficking involves forceful enslavement of individuals and is an affront to human dignity, often involving psychological terror and physical violence. Human trafficking involves issues related to human rights, rule of law,law enforcement, inequality, discrimination, corruption, economic deprivation and migration, according to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
The 10 participants began and finished the two-day ride, which was coordinated by Lt. Cmdr. Joshua C. Treesh, the director of the Branch Dental Clinic at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The event was open to anyone willing to endure the strenuous ride for a greater cause.
“A bunch of us got together and talked about how we wanted to do our part in support of this worldwide issue,” said Treesh. “It wasn’t about the physical pain we would endure
during the ride – it was about raising awareness and giving a voice to those who don’t have one. We chose cycling because we knew it was going to be a big challenge for us.”
The riders set off Nov. 1 from the Cavalry Chapel near Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and ended 120 miles later at Okuma, where family members and supporters met them.
“The ride wouldn’t have been possible without our supporters,” said Treesh. “Even though they weren’t riding, they still supported the cause.”
The riders left Okuma the next morning and arrived back at the chapel around 7 p.m. They totaled nearly 22 hours of ride time during the event.
Throughout the ride, Chief Warrant Officer Cory H. Coulter, a chemical biological radiological and nuclear defense officer with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 1, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and Cpl. Andrew J. Barrow, a correctional specialist with Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler,
Marine Corps Installations Pacific, represented the Marine Corps in the ride, keeping the entire group’s spirits high by saying encouraging words and singing cadences.
“Everyone was exhausted and pushing themselves to the limit,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian D. Layton, an electrical and environmental systems instructor with 372nd Training
Squadron, 982nd Training Group, 82nd Training Wing, Air Education and Training Command. “Despite the stress of the ride, you could still hear the Marines motivating the riders and calling cadence.”
The service members bonded and worked together during the ride, helping each other with obstacles they came across.
“It was great working together and I was happy that besides one flat tire and one fall, the ride went extremely smooth,” said Barrow.
The riders received a lot of attention and cheers from different people during the ride, according to Barrow.
“As a Marine, I had the mentality to never give up and push forward for the cause,” said Barrow. “Human trafficking is a huge issue and I will do anything I can to raise awareness
and help those in need.”