OKINAWA, Japan - As Tomoko Hiro stumbles through the field with sweat rolling down her face, the only thing pushing her forward is a dream and a promise.
“I promised my father I would take care of his business before he passed away two years ago,” said Hiro, the owner of the Hiro Coffee Farm. “It’s been a struggle because of all the damage done by the typhoons, so all the help provided is great.”
Marines, soldiers, sailors and retired service members teamed up at the farm in northern Okinawa Nov. 10 to help keep her promise by cleaning up debris created by recent typhoons.
The ongoing effort to help clean up the farm was started at the beginning of October by a family friend.
“I knew him before he passed away. [My] motorcycle group would ride up north and stop there on the way back for some of his coffee,” said Timothy Dennis, a retired Marine Corps master sergeant. “He was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.”
The past two typhoons not only damaged some canopies and coffee trees; it left both the Hiro family and Dennis feeling devastated.
“Hiro Coffee Farm has been a favorite stop for me for the past seven years, and when I saw the extent of the damage from the typhoons, I just had to help,” said Dennis.
Dennis organized a barbeque and was able raise both money and awareness for the farm. Before long, Marines and other service members volunteered to help and were working diligently.
Though the Marines had been volunteering for the past three weeks, this particular day brought a different sense of accomplishment.
“It’s the Marine Corps birthday, and what better way to spend it than helping out someone in need,” said Sgt. Melvin G. Reno III, an instructor with the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “I know it’s my obligation as a Marine to help someone in need if I can, and that’s why my buddies and I came out here to help clean up the farm for Tomoko.”
The service members were able to clear out the majority of the fallen trees and underbrush from the farm’s field.
“It’s amazing to see how much we were able to accomplish in just the few hours we were out here,” said Spc. Joseph A. Medeiros, an information systems specialist with the 78th Signal Battalion at Torii Station. “It’s been a great experience coming out here and working with the other service members to give back to the community.”
At the end of the day, a barbecue was held to show appreciation to the service members who came out to help clean up the farm.
“Thanks to all the help that was provided, I can try to keep true to my promise to my father,” said Hiro. “If it wasn’t for all the help they provided, it would have taken me months just to get this much work done.”