News: Band welcomed by Oshima
KESENNUMA CITY, Japan — The III Marine Expeditionary Force Band performed in a parade during the 61st Kesennuma City Port Festival in Kesennuma City, Japan, Aug. 12.
“U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” The chant could be heard over the din of the crowd as Marines marched by in perfect unison.
Kesennuma City was unable to hold the festival last year due to rebuilding efforts following the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami March 11, 2011.
The mayor of Kesennuma City wrote a letter inviting the III MEF Band to perform in the festival. A formal greeting from community officials accompanied by a drum performance kicked off the festivities and was followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“It was fantastic,” said Hironobu Sugawara, member of the Kesennuma City Assembly. “The city became more unified by the festival, and having the Marines participate was a great success.”
The participation of the Marines in the parade reminded the community how U.S. forces came to their aid as part of Operation Tomodachi, Sugawara added.
At that time, Okinawa-based Marines deployed to mainland Japan to offer assistance to the Government of Japan and to provide vital resources to assist recovery efforts.
Residents of the city are grateful for the assistance and recovery efforts. Some of the audience had tears in their eyes as the band marched by playing “The Marines’ Hymn.”
“It was sort of a dream for us that the Marines could come and play for the festival,” said Sugawara. “It is a true testament to the dedication that the Marine Corps has for their missions.”
Japanese citizens and leaders developed a close relationship with III MEF Marines and sailors as a result of the bilateral efforts of Operation Tomodachi, and the relationship has continued with several visits conducted between the citizens of the area and service members stationed on Okinawa.
“We were very excited about participating in the parade,” said Chief Warrant Officer Stephen B. Giove, the director and officer-in-charge of the band. “We are very grateful to do our part.”
The night ended with the band taking part in traditional festival dances with other parade participants and playing a variety of music.
“Seeing the audience get involved with our part in the parade was extremely emotional and very fulfilling,” said Giove. “It allows us to get closer to the audience and is a win-win situation for everyone.”
The band’s presence and performance created long-term memories for the people of Kesennuma, according to Sugawara.
“In the same way the homestay program impacted the community, the Marine Corps’ appearance at the festival is a memory that will never be forgotten,” said Sugawara. “Children came to the festival to see the Marines perform, and I believe it is the opinion of the whole island that our gratitude towards the Marine Corps is the strongest.”