Just Keep Swimming
CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan -- A young boy puts goggles on and lowers himself into the water. His weapon loaded, he quietly makes his way toward his target tuning out the noise around him.
His target, a U.S. Marine, is caught off-guard as the boy creeps up behind him and shoots him with a stream of water. Everybody around them begins to laugh.
Marines and sailors stationed at Camp Hansen along with their families were able to swim and play with children with Nagomi Nursery Home for Children and their caretakers Aug. 13 at the Camp Hansen Aquatics Center.
The attendees played with water toys, waded in the water, and played catch and basketball in the pool. The kids hopped onto the Marines’ backs and participate in good-natured splash fights using boogie boards as improvised shields.
“Visiting the Camp Hansen swimming pool is one of the highlights of the summer for the children of Nagomi,” said Masanori Ishikawa, the director of the home. “We have many events that happen in the local community, but this is significant to us.”
The nursing facility is a home and school for children under the age of 18 who have been separated from their parents.
Marines with Camps Schwab and Hansen are familiar faces in the nursing facility, according to Ishikawa, an Uruma City, Okinawa, native. The Marines do a lot of volunteer work with Nagomi, and they are happily received because they are part of the community.
“We are told we are ambassadors when we are walking around (the surrounding community),” said Navy Lt. Christopher R. Grady, the chaplain for 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “It’s good for the Marines to feel like it. They (Marines) actually have a part in the local community and they’re making a difference with these kinds of events, especially with the children.”
Events like this will help build the Marines’ esprit de corps and the relationship between Marines and the local community, according to Lance Cpl. Christopher E. Ortiz, a motor transportation dispatcher with 3rd Bn., 12th Marines.
“When these kids grow up, they can remember, ‘hey I remember when I got to swim, hang out and play with those guys’” said Ortiz, a Boise, Idaho, native. “They’re going to remember us being involved with their community and playing with them in their childhood, which will help future Marines.”
The event was also a chance for the Marines to spend time with their families prior to the unit leaving for an extended training exercise, according to Grady, a Wichita Falls, Texas, native.
“I believe this was a really good last ‘hurrah’ of the summer for the families of the Marines because they were able to experience the Marines’ work environment and have a good time before everybody starts getting busy,” said Ortiz. “It was a good experience to be with the children from the nursing facility on both sides.”
The laughter and excitement from the children, Marines and their families calmed after sharing a meal of Okinawa-style soba, sandwiches and pastries. After eating they continued to play and share each other’s company before the day had to end.
“The kids really look up to and enjoy the Marines’ company,” said Ishikawa. “I hope to continue seeing the Marines remaining active in our community, and our relationship to continue to grow.”