Service members visit daycare
NAGO CITY, OKINAWA, Japan -- Joyous cries and laughter ring throughout the playground as children run back and forth, making sure to involve visiting service members in the activities.
Marines and sailors with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force visited Himawari Gakudo Day Care Center, Nago City, Okinawa, Japan Aug. 23 to play with the students and build positive relations through friendly interaction.
“It’s important to reach out to the community,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Dominic J. Mirenda, the chaplain with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd MARDIV, III MEF. “The more we reach out the more we build a positive relationship between the U.S. armed forces and the people of Okinawa. It also gives us the chance to expose the Marines to other cultures.”
The visit is part of a series of visits that take place once a month, and the event is arranged to spread goodwill and positive relations with the future generations. Despite the language barrier of being from two different countries, they were able to find another way to communicate, according to Fumio Iha, the community relations specialist with Camp Schwab.
“There are more ways to communicate than just speaking,” said Iha. “Sports, expressions and basic handsigns are all ways that we can talk to each other. These children are able to enjoy their time and communicate with these service members. Exposing them to such things as diverse cultures can help the children to grow and gain more experience they can use in the future.”
During the first hour of the visit the service members played games with the children such as various card games, magic tricks and coloring. The next hour was spent in the playground where they pushed the children on swings, played tag, catch, soccer and climbed a jungle gym with them.
The students enjoyed playing games with the service members and spending the day with them, according to Saku Shimabukuro, a sixth-grade student at the center.
“They were very funny,” said Shimabukuro. “I thought they all looked kind and were very fun to play with.”
After growing tired on the playground, the children and service members shared a snack of sliced watermelons, popsicles, soda and water. After the refreshments, the children challenged a few of the volunteers to a friendly math competition. The service members shared a final round of snacks before saying goodbye and returning to Camp Schwab.
“I’m glad they participated in this visit,” said Mirenda. “Children bring out the best in us all and spending the afternoon with so many helped the Marines and sailors to relax and forget some the stress that comes from living a military lifestyle. This visit is good for the children and for them and I’m glad for it.”