CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan -- As the bowling ball slammed into the pins, the Japanese kids, surrounded by United States Marines, screeched with excitement while exchanging high fives and laughter.
Marines and Sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit enjoyed a Saturday afternoon at the Camp Hansen Bowling Center with orphans from Nagomi Nursing Home for Children here, Jan 12. The Marines and Sailors of CLB-31 invited the children to bowl with them and join them for lunch.
The Nagomi Nursing Home, a privately-owned organization, brought 65 kids ranging from the ages of four to 18. Able to kick back and relax themselves, the group of 44 Marines and Sailors helped the kids feel comfortable, let loose and enjoy their day.
“It is great to be able to come out here, enjoy our afternoon with these kids and have fun,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason M. Turgeon, a corpsman with CLB-31, 31st MEU. “We are always working, whether we are deployed or back in Okinawa. It is nice to get a break from that.”
While under the care of the home, the children are given a place to live, three meals a day and a warm bed to sleep in. The essentials are provided, but the missing piece to the puzzle is the relationships, whether it is a brother and sister or a mom and dad.
“These kids do not have a family to go home to after this,” said Staff Sgt. Reuben B. Garcia, the embarkation chief for CLB-31, 31st MEU and a native of Phoenix, Ariz. “I have kids back in the states that are not here with me and it’s things like this that remind me that every kid should have an older figure to look up to.”
The Marines and Sailors attempted to get to know the children while playing, and the language barrier made the day an interesting adventure for both the English and Japanese speakers.
When the bowling was done, the group socialized with some pizza and drinks. The shared meal helped the kids open up even more, as the group made the transition from strangers to friends.
“This is the best thing, interacting with the kids and having a lasting impact on them until the next time we get to see them,” said Navy Lt. Kyu C. Lee, the chaplain for CLB-31, 31st MEU and a native of San Diego, Calif. “Even though we only get to see these kids between deployments, it’s the smalls things like going out and spending time with them that improves their outlook a little bit at a time.”
On multiple occasions in the past, Lee and his CLB-31 personnel have visited the Nagomi Nursing Home for Children. The Marines and Sailors enjoy the company of the young locals, just as much as the Japanese children enjoy the company of the Americans.
“Next time we get to see these kids, they will remember us,” said Turgeon, a native of Memphis, Tenn. “Then, we can build even more on the relationships we built today.”
The 31st MEU is currently conducting their pre-deployment workup before their annual Spring Patrol, where the Marines and Sailors will conduct multilateral training exercises to strengthen theater security cooperation. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.