Service members bring Christmas cheer to the Okinawa Airakuen Sanatorium

by Lanec Cpl. Danielle R. Prentice
U.S. Marine Corps

NAGO, OKINAWA, Japan -- Service members from across Okinawa sang Christmas Carols for an elderly community Dec. 15 at the Okinawa Airakuen Sanatorium in Nago, Okinawa, Japan.

Since 1938, the Nago Airakuen Sanatorium has been a convalescent home for leprosy patients or ex-leprosy patients.

“It was really great seeing a woman who was 104 going on 105 years old, still smiling and excited to see all of us,” said Pfc. Haley K. Huffman, an administrative specialist with Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Going out there and sharing our Christmas spirit with them was a great experience.”

During the carols, nurses and staff passed out chocolate chip cookies and banana bread freshly made by volunteers for the residents.

“Bringing smiles to their faces was awesome,” said Cpl. Kieyearra Gardner, an embarkation specialist with CLR-3, 3rd MLG, III MEF. “It’s great being able to visit them. It was special and I’m glad I was able to partake.”

After they sang, service members came visited one-on-one with the residents.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Jeffery B. Parks, the chaplain for CLR-3, this event is something he plans on continuing in the future.

“It brought hope to their hearts knowing that there are people who care for them,” said Parks. “The auditorium was filled with absolute joy. They clapped, sang along, and had a great time watching us perform for them and share our holiday spirit with them. Our whole group was excited to shake hands and greet members of the community here at the facility. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, we spoke the universal language of love.”

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