View Full Version : Remembering past heroes...

06-22-03, 07:40 AM
Remembering past heroes...
Marines, JGSDF unite for park cleanup
Submitted by: MCB Camp Butler
Story Identification Number: 2003618214114
Story by Sgt. Christopher D. Reed

PEACE PRAYER PARK, Okinawa, Japan(June 19, 2003) -- Seventy-six servicemembers and nearly 200 Japan Ground Self Defense Force personnel recently participated in the ninth annual cleanup at the Peace Prayer Park, a park honoring Japanese and American servicemembers who fought and died in the Battle of Okinawa.

The event, sponsored by the JGSDF, was a collaborative effort between the JGSDF and Marines and Sailors of III Marine Expeditionary Force to help cleanup the park for the observance of the Okinawan Memorial Day June 23.

This year marked the first time U.S. servicemembers joined in the volunteer cleanup effort. According to Sgt. Maj. Kazuo Oda, Headquarters, 1st Combined Brigade, JGSDF, in the past, only the JGSDF was involved.

"The best part was (having) so many Marines and Sailors join us in this activity for the first time," Oda said. "I would like to make it a joint activity with the Marine Corps in the future too."

During the cleanup, some of the volunteers spaced themselves along the length of the stone monuments dedicated to those who fought and died in the Battle of Okinawa. They used scrub brushes and water to clean debris from the monuments. Other volunteers pulled weeds from the grass, which surrounded the monuments.

"The names on the memorials were of people that served for us," said Lance Cpl. Jose M. Negrette, avenger technician, 1st Stinger Battery, Marine Air Control Group-18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. "It is our duty to keep the place clean so we can remember them."

According to Sgt. Maj. Takeru Suwa, JGSDF liason officer, III Marine Expeditionary Force, this event meant much more to some of the Okinawan participants than just an opportunity to help clean the park.

"To some of them it is more personal," Suwa said. "Many of them have family members whose names are engraved on the monuments, and this is their way of paying homage to them."

For many of the servicemembers this event marked their first visit to the park. According to Cpl Adam C. Haaga, C-130 navigator, Marine Aerial Refueling Transport Squadron, Marine Air Group-36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, visiting the memorial gave him a better understanding of the history behind the Battle of Okinawa.

"Seeing all the names engraved on the monument put everything in perspective," the Portland, Ore. native said. "I would like to do something like this again. I got to see more of the island and make a positive impact at the same time." he added.

After the conclusion of the hour-long cleanup, participants were afforded the opportunity to see other landmarks throughout the park, to include the Okinawan Prayer for Peace Statue. According to the Okinawa Foundation, the statue created by Shinzan Yamada, although similar to the traditional Buddah, sits atop a flower pedestal whose six petals represent the six continents. The statue as a whole represents human harmony and world peace.

According to Master Sgt. Satoshi Obata, P3C SS3, Naha Base, although the war on terrorism is ongoing, peace is possible because there are no human beings who do not wish for world peace.

"Once we admit the differences and accept each other's differences, the world will be a peaceful place." Obata said.


LCpl. Daniel P. Sackett, S-6, data network specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corp. Air Station, Futenma, helps to clean a monument during community relations event at the Peace Prayer Park June 7. The event was part of a ongoing effort to better relations between Okinawans and Americans here on Okinawa.
Photo by: Sgt. Christopher Reed