News: MCAS Iwakuni Single Marine Program provides station residents opportunity to participate in orphanage visits
Story by Lance Cpl. Benjamin Pryer
IWAKUNI, Japan - The thought of helping those less fortunate, of giving back to the community and the desire to make life better for others are just a few reasons people volunteer their time to visit orphanages and children’s homes.
Volunteers from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, have an extra reason to add that service members in the United States don’t possess, the opportunity to form stronger bonds as ambassadors in a foreign country.
“Marines see Japanese (people) and they see a different type of person, and yes they have their own culture, but they’re just like us in a lot of ways,” said Lance Cpl. Dianna Ganzhorn, an embarkation specialist with Combat Logistics Company 36. “They have the same emotions as we do, so the same things that made you smile as a kid would make these children smile too. Having those emotions and bonds with people, that’s what is important.”
Ganzhorn mentioned that this is her first visit to a children’s home since arriving in Iwakuni.
“I got here in June, so this is my first SMP trip,” said Ganzhorn. “I thought it was great. From a Marine’s perspective, I think it’s important for us to go out and participate in opportunities like this and interact with children. I think a lot of the exchange was emotions shared back and forth, you didn’t really need to use words.”
Ganzhorn also recounted her feelings during the drive back to Iwakuni.
“I was thinking about it on the bus ride back,” said Ganzhorn. “This one girl, her name was Miyu, I was wondering if she’ll remember me later in life. I really hope she does, and I hope she remembers that we genuinely tried to help out and I hope it leaves a good impression, especially as Marines. We’re not just war fighting machines, we have a good side too and we care about people, just like brothers and sisters.”
Since most service members don’t speak Japanese, it may prove difficult for individuals to set up such visits on their own. Luckily, the Single Marine Program provides many opportunities for Marines to volunteer.
“It’s a win-win situation, the Marines should get more involved with community relation events in general and it helps to make a difference,” said Oana Ivanoff, SMP Marine Lounge manager. “That’s what it means to volunteer. It’s not about what’s in it for you, it’s all about how you can give back.”
While several units aboard station have certain children’s homes they interact with regularly, Ivanoff said she wanted to venture out to somewhere MCAS Iwakuni residents have yet to visit.
“A lot of the shops and units aboard base go to different schools and orphanages in Iwakuni, and they bring gifts, but they’re always the same six or so orphanages, as far as I know of,” said Ivanoff. “The impact is more for the kids than us. I’m sure a lot of the active duty members around here have gone on deployments and visited several orphanages, but to those kids, this is their first.”
Ivanoff recently brought service members to a children’s home in Yamaguchi city, a few-hours drive away from MCAS Iwakuni. She has also mentioned upcoming chances for service members aboard station to volunteer, saying that she is planning on returning to the children’s home in Yamaguchi in December.
Ivanoff also said she hopes to go to another orphanage in Hofu City in November, which will be the first time station residents visit that orphanage as well.
This work, MCAS Iwakuni Single Marine Program provides station residents opportunity to participate in orphanage visits, by Sgt Benjamin Pryer, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.