NAGO, Okinawa --
NAGO, Okinawa - Shrieks of joy and excitement echo through the halls as small bare feet run across the hardwood floor. Children look up to the Marines with sparkles in their eyes as they are served sizzling American-style burgers.
More than 30 Marines and sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, spent the day with children from the Nagomi Nursing Home for Children June 22 in Nago.
“Exchanging cultures between (Marines) and the children is important,” said Ayumi Oshiro, a disbursing officer with 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “It is really a special experience for both the Marines and children.”
During the day, the volunteers spent time interacting with the children by playing basketball and soccer, making crafts, and blowing bubbles. “The day with the kids brought out our inner child,” said Cpl. Alexander Mercado, a supply administration clerk with 3rd MLG currently assigned to CLB-31, 31st MEU, III MEF. “We got to interact with the kids and see the ways that they play sports, see what they like to do, and how they have fun.”
It is important to get involved and give back to the local community, according to Mercado, a Miami, Florida, native. Throughout the day, Marines and sailors enhanced their relationship with community members and participated in a unique experience as well.
“It gives Marines and sailors a better understanding that we are (on) Okinawa, not just on a Marine Corps base,” said Nicole Franklin, the family readiness officer for the battalion. “It helps us understand the community around us.”
After playing games with the kids in the morning, the volunteers hosted an American-style cookout in the afternoon with hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and drinks.
“Initially, it took the children a little while to understand what (was) happening and to warm up to us, but the barrier was broken,” said Franklin, a Kapaa, Hawaii, native. “Food is definitely a universal language.”
The nursing home takes in children from families that can no longer support them, according to Oshiro, a Nago, Okinawa, native. Bringing the Marines and sailors to the home gives the children a special experience they normally would not have.
“When I come over here to help, the children tell me they look forward to (the Marines and sailors) coming here,” said Oshiro. “It gives them something to be excited for.”
Building relationships with the people of Okinawa is beneficial to service members as well, according to Franklin. Getting off base and involved in the local community boosts their morale and gives the children a fun-filled day.
“It’s important to give back because it’s important for them to see that we’re not just here to train in the military,” said Mercado.
“We’re here to help them and make their lives better. We want to show our support and how we respect their culture, community and people.”