Young at heart: Soldiers volunteer at local nursing home

by Rick Rzepka
USAG Okinawa

YOMITAN VILLAGE, Okinawa -- Soldiers from the 333rd Signal Company “Triple Threat” visited the Yomitan-no Sato Nursing Home Dec. 4 in Yomitan Village, where they exercised, played games and got to know some of the village’s young-at-heart senior citizens.

Nineteen Soldiers from the 333rd Signal Co., 78th Signal Battalion, volunteered their time to expend some energy with dozens of elderly residents and while the nursing home sees its fair share of visitors, the facility rarely sees a foreign face.

“The Yomitan-no Sato Home is open up for the volunteers in order to provide many opportunities for those elders at the home, but they don't seldom to have foreign volunteers,” said Ms. Sugako Oshiro, Chief Care Giver at Yomitan-no Sato. “It is a new opportunity for those elders, they got so excited yesterday's activity. Those new volunteers from the Army did such a great job interacting with our elders. They had a great time and look forward to seeing them again,” she said.

The signal Soldiers were greeted with warm up exercises led by the facility’s staff and quickly warmed up to the resident’s beaming smiles and heart-felt handshakes. The Soldiers and residents then took turns in a mini-bowling competition rife with laughter and cheers and played Jan Ken Pom or Rock, Paper, Scissors with residents.

“The joy of seeing everyone smiling and having the opportunity to show our respect and share even just a small part of their day was special in itself,” said Spc. Amanda R. Vezinat, who  serves with the company’s mobile maintenance section. “We were told that we made their day but honestly I feel like they made mine,” she said.

In Okinawa, the adage, ‘ichariba-chode’ translates loosely into ‘once we have met, we become brothers and sisters.’ This spirit of friendship has been carried down through the generations and represents the spirit of Okinawa, said Oshiro.

“We treat those elders with love and respect as our own Family members. I hope the care we provide can give them something to live for … We are one big Family,” she said.

The Soldiers of the 333rd Signal Co. know a little something about the familial bonds that soldiering brings and came away with not only respect for the elderly, but for the community as well.

“Personally I feel that volunteering is very important to Soldiers because it boosts morale and strengthens bonds between Soldiers and the community,” said Vezinat, who hopes to coordinate more volunteer events. “We are told we are ambassadors of our country more times than we can count and events like these give us a chance to make a positive impression in the local community.”

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