OKINAWA, Japan --
A four day retreat on Okinawa for some of the residents of tsunami-ravaged Oshima Island ended with the Marine Corps responding to their most prevalent request.
“The children all wanted to get in the water, both the beach and pool,” said Robert D. Eldridge, deputy assistant chief of staff, Marine Corps Bases Japan. “It was a little surprising in light of the tragedy that affected the area.”
As first responders to Oshima Island, Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit removed tons of debris from the communities, but the damage still rendered most local waters too dangerous for children, according to Hironobu Sugawara, Kessennuma City Assemblyman.
Understanding the situation of the 25 children and four adults on the retreat, a pool party and barbecue on Marine Corps Base Camp Foster was put together to serve as the culmination event for the guests and host families. Organizers from Marine Corps Bases Japan and the office of Mr. Sugawara saw the party as a great way to bring together all of the people involved in executing the retreat.
For the previous three days, the Oshima Island guests stayed with volunteer families. Marines and Sailors from throughout Camp Foster’s many units jumped at the opportunity to serve as hosts.
“My family wanted to do something nice, to continue the assistance provided through Operation Tomodachi. This was our opportunity,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Victor Velasquez, a utilities officer for Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, Marine Aircraft Group 17.
During their stay, the Oshima Island guests split their time between organized activities and spending time with their host family. One of the significant organized events was a luncheon with Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck Jr., commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force and Maj. Gen. Peter J. Talleri, commanding general of Marine Corps Base Camp Butler.
“We had to strike a balance between organized events and the desire of the host families to show their guests the Okinawa we love to be a part of,” said Eldridge.
In the case of the pool party, host families and organizers agreed that meeting the request of the children would be a fitting conclusion to the retreat. The afternoon of swimming would serve as a great venue to say goodbye, according to Velasquez.
With the trip coming to a close, the guests from Oshima Island were eager to show their gratitude to their hosts for the experience.
“On April 1st the Marines came to Oshima for the first time to provide support,” said Mr. Sugawara. “It was very good for us, but to give us the opportunity to come to Okinawa has been great!”
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.