KOZA BAPTIST CHURCH, OKINAWA, Japan --
Marines are known for their generosity during the holidays through toys for tots, but that’s not the only way they help the local community.
More than 30 Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, led a day of singing, games and gift exchanges for 125 special needs children in Okinawa.
“There are a lot of less fortunate children here,” said Pfc. Abdullah Jumah, a warehousemen with CLB-31, 31st MEU. “We are here to make them feel special, encouraging and interacting with them as much as we can.”
For many of the volunteers, this was their first experience participating in a community relations event.
“I was told there was a community relations event where we’d be able to hang out with kids, so I jumped aboard,” said Jumah. “It’s my first time volunteering and it’s a lot of fun. I think everybody can benefit from this kind of event.”
The day started with everyone gathering in the chapel to sing Christmas carols in both Japanese and English. After singing numerous songs alongside the Marines, the children were split into groups and guided to game rooms.
Upon completion of each game, the children would move to another room to take part in a different game. Once all games were complete, the children were presented a gift by Marines supporting the toys for tots program.
“The entire community really came together for this, and it really made a difference,” said Shirley Smith, a member of the church that volunteered for the event.
She went on to say that the Marines really helped show the locals how much they care, and that Okinawa really benefited from the occasion.
According to Jumah, the events conclusion left the Marines with a feeling of satisfaction for helping the community, and the children and Okinawa natives left with an positive impression of Marines.
The church members are already looking forward to having Marines at next year’s event, and hope that it will be even bigger than it was this year, according to Smith.
“I think it went really well,” said Smith. “Every year our number grows, this year there were 125 children, and next year we are hoping to have even more.”
The Marines of CLB 31, 31st MEU, are currently preparing for their next deployment to the Asia-Pacific region.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.