Black ribbons and butterflies symbolize our shared mourning and unity

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Col. George G. Malkasian, the camp commander of Camp Courtney and Camp McTureous, mourns this tragic incident deeply and gives a speech to the members of the Camp Courtney Chapel on June 5, 2016.
Col. George G. Malkasian, the camp commander of Camp Courtney and Camp McTureous, mourns this tragic incident deeply and gives a speech to the members of the Camp Courtney Chapel on June 5, 2016.

Black ribbons and butterflies symbolize our shared mourning and unity

by: Story and photo by Ike Hirayasu | .
Stripes Okinawa | .
published: June 08, 2016

CAMP COURTNEY, OKINAWA, Japan -- It has been said that a butterfly carries a man’s spirits or even spirits itself.

The rhymes regarding butterflies were written in the era of the Ryukyu Kingdom, and many more have been written since then.

And now, large black paper butterflies are displayed along the fence line of Camp Courtney’s gates.

The butterflies were hand crafted by an American woman. She was preparing for her move back to the U.S. when she heard about the meaning of butterflies and the commander’s intentions.

She then halted her preparations for the travel and immediately started to craft butterflies with all her heart.

Col. George G. Malkasian, the camp commander of Camp Courtney and Camp McTureous, took this tragic incident in which a Uruma city’s young lady was victimized very seriously.

As an Uruma city resident himself, Col. Malkasian tied a black ribbon on his vehicle as a symbol of mourning and unity with his neighbors.

Malkasian, who arrived on Okinawa less than a year ago, read the following message to the Camp Courtney and McTureous families.

“We are truly blessed having our two small Camps nestled in the midst of Uruma City where we shop, dine, and enjoy countless scenic and cultural opportunities.

The tragic loss of a beautiful young lady living in our community is a shock to all of us, and as Uruma City grieves, so do we.

As a symbol of mourning for the young lady and unity with our neighbors, I am asking our Marines, Sailors, and families to wear a simple black ribbon on our clothes and displayed on our cars.

In addition, we have displayed several large butterflies on the fence line near our gates.

These butterflies have a spiritual significance to our Okinawan neighbors, representing the souls of those who have passed through the cycle of life.

I hope that these small gestures over the next month remind us of the preciousness of life, our respect for our neighbors, and our sincere prayer that our community never suffers a loss like this again.

Thank you for your support.

Very Respectfully,

Colonel Malkasian”

Many service members and their families now wear black ribbons after receiving this messages to share the mourning and show respect to their neighbors.