Torii Station volunteers host beach clean up

by Rick Rzepka
USAG Okinawa PAO

YOMITAN, Okinawa – Several dozen volunteers from across the island gathered at Namihira Beach Sept. 20 to do their part in keeping Okinawa beautiful during a beach clean up event organized by a U.S. Army Garrison – Okinawa employee.

Ashley DeBerry, a recreation assistant at the Scuba Locker at Torii Station and Army spouse, along with members of the Okinawa Ladies Dive Club and residents of the village of Yomitan, gathered trash and debris off of the beach as a way not only to celebrate International Coastal Clean Up Day, but to help strengthen community bonds as well.

DeBerry, who organized the event and collaborated through the local government, said, “I want us to make a difference and have an impact to protect and preserve the waterways. We’re guests on this island and we’re guests in this country, so I think that it’s our responsibility and our duty to respect their culture, their language, their land. It only makes sense to do our part and give back in that way.”

The mantra of the day was to instill the concept of leaving something behind, better than you found it and the beach clean up certainly met that goal.

Hundreds of pounds of litter, including tires, trash and even old car parts we’re removed from the area, which came out not only more beautiful, but more safe.

“It’s about the next person coming along behind you having the same, if not better, experience,” said Yuki Gillis, dive club member and Army family member. “As a mom with a family, I want to be able to take them to the beach without having to worry about them getting cut on glass or just seeing that this is how people treat the environment in general,” she said.

“All that should be left behind are your footprints,” said Gillis.

For newcomers and younger service members Gillis offers sage advice: “Don’t be a knuckle head and ruin it for everyone else.”

DeBerry plans on organizing more clean up events and her efforts have not gone unnoticed.

“Her efforts as well as all of the other volunteers have a very positive impact,” said Morale, Welfare and Recreation Scuba Locker manager Tony Lecrone. “As an MWR employee it's great to see that she continues to share her ambition after work and shares it with our host nation,” said Lecrone.

As of last year the Torii Beach Scuba Locker is recognized as a PADI 5-Star Dive Center, which Lecrone said is quite an achievement. With the rising popularity of the Scuba Locker, Lecrone said that MWR plans to get more involved in volunteer projects and believes that MWR sponsored events can help build bridges with the local community.

“The more that we show our appreciation and that we care can only make that relationship between us, that much stronger,” said DeBerry.

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