News: Communities strengthen bonds during local festival
Story by Lance Cpl. Elizabeth Case
OKINAWA, Japan - Through the smell of traditional Okinawa foods and the sight of blossoming cherry trees, Okinawa residents, service members and families alike listened to the sounds of the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band performing Jan. 27 at the 51st annual Nago Cherry Blossom Festival at Nago Central Park.
“Every year, the band comes to interact with the public in support of the festival,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jesse G. Gerhardt, the operations chief for the III MEF Band and trumpet section leader. “This festival is a great way for us to strengthen our relationship and build camaraderie between the local community and the U.S. Marine Corps through music.”
Hearing the band perform is an enjoyable experience for the local residents, according to Yoshinori Kinjo, a Nago resident who attended the festival.
“The music of the III MEF Band brings me back to the old days, when I used to listen to marching music like this,” said Kinjo. “The sound is marvelous. The participation from the Marines is a great way to bring our communities together.”
At the festival, attendees could purchase traditional foods and drinks from vendors and play a variety of cultural games while viewing the cherry blossom trees and Nago Castle ruins.
“This is our second year attending the festival,” said Lt. Col. Chris Dalton, the deputy assistant chief of staff, G-4, supply and logistics, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF. “It’s a great chance to experience the culture and the food. This is a very relaxing and enjoyable experience.”
Farther down the street, music and various cultural performances were featured, including the III MEF Band’s ceremonial band.
“Since this is an annual event, we always like to be here,” said Ayako Kinjo, Yoshinori Kinjo’s wife. “I always look forward to the (III MEF Band’s performance) when we come here. It is something we always have to see.”
With all the various ways to celebrate the emergence of the cherry blossoms, the 51st annual Nago Cherry Blossom Festival was a great experience for everyone, according to Dalton.
“We love the III MEF Band,” said Dalton. “They show the people of Okinawa a lighter side of the Marine Corps, and I really feel like events like this bring the local and military communities closer together.”