US Marines, Okinawa community members provide positive image
CAMP SCHWAB, OKINAWA, Japan -- Community members from Henoko and U.S. Marines participated in a fence cleaning project July 2 near Camp Schwab, in which they cleaned illegally posted protest materials from a portion of the camp’s perimeter fence and showcased their local support for the U.S. military and service members on the island.
To highlight the positive impact of Marines on the community, it is not uncommon to see Marines working on various projects off base with Okinawa residents, according to Cpl. Ricardo Gonzalez, the fence cleanup event coordinator and Marine Air-Ground Task Force planning specialist with 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“Today we removed various signs and ribbons the protestors have hung on the fence,” said Gonzalez, a San Jose, California, native. “This is just one method the few protestors use to show their discontent with the military here, and together with local Okinawa supporters of the U.S., we are showing that we do have respect for their island and that we can peacefully coexist together.”
More than 40 volunteers participated in the bilateral cleaning effort. Like other community relations projects in the area, it was highly publicized because of the ongoing construction of the Futenma Replacement Facility on Camp Schwab, and the cleanup directly impacted the nearby districts of Henoko and Nago.
“For this event we had a huge turnout,” said Tony Marano, an event participant, prominent online video blogger and outspoken supporter of the Japan and U.S. alliance. “There were many local military supporters and Okinawa media representatives.”
The high turnout is a direct representation of the success the Marines are having when contributing to the local community, according to Marano, a Dallas, Texas, native.
As the Marines and community members cleaned the fence, several anti-base protestors gathered nearby on the opposite side of the beach to watch. The number of supporters greatly outnumbered the number of protestors, showing that what some media portrays is not always the ground truth.
“(Everyone) here has an opinion about the military presence and both supporters and non-supporters feel very strongly that they are correct,” said Katsunori Nashiro, an Okinawa resident participating in the fence cleaning. “I choose to help because I like the U.S. Marines, and they try to help make the Okinawa community a better place. That is why I come to these special projects. We are making Okinawa a better place to live in.”
The fence cleaning project is just one example of how to positively interact with the Okinawa community and garner positive support, according to Gonzalez.
“Being a good neighbor means more than just staying on base and staying out of trouble,” said Gonzalez. “You can organize and start your own community relations projects; you don’t have to sit back and wait for someone else to do it.”
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