Okinawa, JAPAN --
When the Marines landed on Taguchi Beach in the morning hours of July 30, they carried on a long standing tradition of Marines overseas; being good citizens.
Approximately 40 Marines from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron– 265 (Reinforced), the Air Combat Element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a clean-up of the local beach, removing trash and debris in order to return the popular leisure spot to its previous luster.
“(Taguchi Beach) is a common destination between locals and Marines, so cleaning it up seemed like a good way to show the community here that we care,” said Sgt. Eliseo A. Zuniga, a 23-year-old intelligence analyst with HMM-265 (REIN), 31st MEU, who participated in the clean-up.
The group of HMM-265 (REIN) volunteers spent more than two hours working along a one and a half mile stretch of beach, operating in small groups, and picking up everything from cigarette butts to vehicle tires by hand. By the time the Marines reached the end of their cleaning route, 15 (33-gallon) trash bags had been filled and five tires removed.
“The cleanup made me feel good,” said Sgt. Bruce W. Jones, a 25-year-old administrative chief for HMM-265 (REIN), 31st MEU. “We were able to show some of the new Marines a different area of the island and see the appreciation of the locals.”
As the Marines loaded their vehicles to depart, some of the local residents who were watching the cleaning approached to show their appreciation, according to Zuniga, a resident of Selma, Calif.
“These types of activities show the community that we are here to help, and strengthen our relationship,” said Zuniga.
Although pleased with the community’s gratitude, Lt.Col. Damien M. Marsh, commanding officer of HMM-265 (REIN), 31st MEU, cautions that recognition was never the goal of the day’s work, nor any of the Marines’ community activities in Okinawa.
“We were out to preserve the beauty of our home away from home,” said Marsh. “This activity was just a demonstration of the Marines Corps’ continued commitment to be quality citizens, wherever our boots hit the ground.”
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit is the only continually forward-deployed MEU, and remains the United States’ force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.