News: Okinawa community unites in holiday spirit
Story by Lance Cpl. Donald Peterson
CAMP SCHWAB, Okinawa - Twas not the night before Christmas, but a festive “Ho Ho Ho!” could still be heard off in the distance.
Children quickly turned around and with a little luck, they could see old Saint Nicholas riding in on a bright, red fire truck.
“Santa Claus!” yelled a child from the crowd as they all started to rush; because to meet ol’ Kris Kringle was a definite must.
The USO hosted the 32nd annual Camp Schwab USO/Henoko Christmas Children’s Day party for the children of Henoko Dec. 7 at Camp Schwab.
The celebration, which is intended to strenthen the bond between the Marine Corps and the Okinawa community, as well as to bring the Christmas spirit to the children of Henoko, had an amazing turnout, according to Gunnery Sgt. Peter A. Scott, the camp services chief. There were approximately 150 children, the mayor of Henoko and 60 Marine volunteers from various units who attended the event.
The festivities started off with opening remarks from the Camp Schwab commander and the mayor of Henoko.
“For the past 32 years, we have been holding this celebration,” said Col. Richard D. Hall, the Camp Schwab commander. “It’s a great feeling knowing that a tradition like this one has lasted this long and will continue to happen in the years that are to come.”
The celebration included food, games, a performance by the Camp Lester Middle School Band, face painting and a surprise visit by Santa Claus who delivered presents to all the children.
“It was a great experience being able to interact with the children,” said Cpl. Matthew D. McGowan, a volunteer and automotive maintenance technician with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF. “They were quick learners at games like pool and really good at foosball and (table tennis).”
To close out the day’s events, the Camp Lester Middle School Band performed several holiday medleys. Following the performance, the children of Henoko were visited by Santa Claus.
Santa Claus, with the help of the Marines, presented each child who attended with a present and wished them a Merry Christmas.
“Christmas season is the season of giving, and giving out all these gifts to the children and seeing the smiles on their faces makes events like this one unforgettable,” said Santa Claus.
As the celebration came to an end, the children of Henoko thanked the volunteers and Marines who helped make the celebration possible by singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in Japanese.
“The celebration was good not only for the bond between the U.S. military and the (Okinawa community), but for the children who got to enjoy the festivities of Christmas,” said Munekatsu Kayo the mayor of Henoko.