News: Service members volunteer time at Tomo Days festivities, cleanups
Story by Lance Cpl. Alyssa N. Gunton
CHATAN TOWN, Okinawa - More than 60 Marines, volunteers and children participated in Tomo Days April 6 and 10 at the Chapel Youth Center on Camp Foster and the seawall in Chatan Town.
The events included an Easter egg hunt for children from the Airen-en Orphanage, a movie matinee and a seawall cleanup.
Tomo Days was initiated to highlight the relationship between the Japanese community and U.S. military following the 2nd anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami and Operation Tomodachi. Marines stationed on Okinawa assisted with relief efforts in affected areas of mainland Japan during Operation Tomodachi, according to Col. Katherine J. Estes, the commanding officer of Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, and Camp Foster commander.
“This entire week is focused on our relationship with the local community and the positive things that we do every day,” said Estes. “There’s a close relationship between the community and the camps on Okinawa.”
To support Tomo Days, service members volunteered their time April 6 to assist the children in an Easter egg hunt.
“For most of the kids, this is their first time on Camp Foster, and the egg hunt gives them a taste of American Easter traditions,” said Lt. Cmdr. Aaron C. Carlton, the chaplain for H&S Bn., MCB Camp Butler. “This is great for children from the community because they get to experience some cultural differences that they maybe haven’t before.”
Following the egg hunt, attendees made their way to the Camp Foster Chapel Youth Center, where refreshments were served and guests watched “Toy Story 3.”
“We just wanted to have an opportunity to show our appreciation for our host nation and local community,” Carlton said. “When we get to interact with the (children), we get to bring our own joy into the situation, so it’s a really special event.”
The movie matinee gave the children the opportunity to experience American culture and traditions. The event showcased the important relationship between Okinawa and military bases, as more than 30 service members volunteered to help out.
“To see this many volunteers helping with children is wonderful,” said Yoh Arai, a chapel volunteer and parent. “It helps the children grow up and develop.”
At the end of the day, both the service members and children left with something positive.
“A lot of our troops get to spend time with the (children) and everybody just warms up to each other, and that bodes well for all of us,” said Carlton. “It makes sure that we’re connected to the people around us and that these kids will grow up with positive experiences with the American military.”
Later in the week, service members and volunteers cleaned up a section of a seawall in Chatan Town frequently visited by service members.
“Events such as this are good to show that we care how the community looks and about the environment,” said Lance Cpl. Joseph R. Goulet, a helicopter mechanic with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “It lets us show that we are good neighbors to the surrounding communities.”
Even though the cleanup had to be rescheduled from the original day due to adverse weather conditions, service members still showed up and were eager to participate in the event.
“Even though there were not as many people out cleaning up as there would have been on the weekend, we did a good job,” said Goulet. “There was a noticeable difference from when we started to when we finished.”