News: Local community, Americans honor Okinawa Memorial Day
More than 5,000 Okinawan community members and American military service members gathered at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park here for the 2011 Okinawa Memorial Service for All War Dead June 23.
The somber event recognized the 66th anniversary of the conclusion of the Battle of Okinawa, one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
Erected in 1995, Peace Memorial Park is located in southeastern Okinawa, where the fighting ended, and stands as a tribute to the more than 200,000 military personnel and civilians who perished during the battle. This number included people from Japan, the U.S., Great Britain, Korea, Taiwan and Okinawa.
Throughout the day, Okinawan citizens and active duty and retired American service members strolled the grounds, recalling cherished stories of their loved ones and placing flowers, origami cranes, food and bottles of water under their loved ones’ names at the Cornerstone of Peace.
The Cornerstone of Peace, also known as Heiwa no Ishiji, is a stone -wall monument bearing the 241,132 names of all who lost their lives during the battle. Its main purpose is to help people remember those lost in the war and to pray for peace and to pass on the lessons learned from war and serve as a place for meditation and learning, according to the Okinawa prefectural government.
The ceremony, which included the presence of Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan, featured a memorial day address, peace declaration and offering of flowers to the memory of fallen troops and civilians. It also included the recitation of a peace poem and memorial messages.
Several members of the Okinawan government also gave short speeches to honor the memory of the fallen.
“On this day, we pay our most sincere and heartfelt respects to the souls of all who lost their lives during this battle,” said Hirokazu Nakaima, the governor of Okinawa Prefecture. “We hereby pledge to devote our utmost efforts to the creation of peace and to share these efforts with the people of the world.”
Surrounded by American service members, American Chamber of Commerce members, civilians and the Honorable Raymond F. Greene, the U.S. Consul General in Naha, Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck, Jr., commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force and commander of Marine Corps Bases Japan, spoke on behalf of the U.S. service members who lost their lives in a smaller ceremony.
“I consider it a great honor to come together with our Japanese neighbors today to remember the brave service members who made the ultimate sacrifice years ago,” Glueck said. “This memorial wall is a solemn statement of their unflinching courage and dedication.”
Robin Miller, director of United Services Organization Okinawa and coordinator for the American ceremony, said it was important for both Americans and Okinawans to recognize the sacrifices of the past.
“If we understand the sacrifices of the past, we can better relate to the present and the future,” said Miller. “When we relate, we can better appreciate where we are and the depth of our relationship with Okinawa.”
Date Posted:06.30.2011 20:30
Location:CAMP GONSALVES, OKINAWA, JP
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