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Marines, senior citizens scour the beach

Date Posted: 2004-05-20

HENOKO, Okinawa, Japan — Marines of Camp Schwab and members of the Henoko Senior Citizens’ club joined together to beautify a portion of the beach here April 29.

The clean up was part of Green Day, which is a national holiday and the first day of Golden Week, a series of Japanese national holidays.

“We do clean ups of our neighborhood every year. This was the first time we had a joint clean up of this beach with Marines from Camp Schwab,’ said Tokusei Oshiro, president, Henoko Senior Citizens’ Club. “The clean site will benefit all the Henoko residents including the Schwab Marines because this is where the upcoming Henoko Hari (Dragon Boat Races) will be held. It's our tradition that we include Marines in our community events.”

As an outdoorsman and nature lover, the holiday is a celebration of former Emperor Hirohito’s birthday and is a day reserved for working outdoors and cleaning the environment.

“It’s wonderful that we did the clean up on the Japanese holiday,” Oshiro said.

“I think this was a really good effort and a really good thing to do,” said Capt. David E. Standing, Camp Schwab deputy camp commander. “With remembrance of Green Day we chose to have a dual effort with Earth Day and clean up outside of Camp Schwab.”

With fifteen Marines and more than 50 Okinawans, the neighbors worked diligently for several hours removing trash, debris and overgrown vegetation.

“We did quite a bit with the residents of Henoko using power tools,” Standing said. “We participate in events like this anytime we can to promote friendship, community relations and be environmentally conscious.”

Bonded by environmental holidays, the Marines and senior citizens enjoyed one another's company.

“I don’t know if words can describe how they responded, but I think they responded very well,” Standing said. “We enjoy this relationship, so any time Marines and Okinawans can get together, it’s a pretty good occasion. We’re back-door neighbors doing a job; I don’t really see us as Okinawans and Marines, but just neighbors.”

The senior citizens had a rare chance to see Marines in action on a personal level.

“This was to promote that Marines are people too. We serve in a uniform each day, but we’re not just a soldier, we’re also trying to develop ourselves for when we return to society,” Standing said.

Getting out and participating in community activities is a necessity, he explained.

Once the two groups completed the task at hand, they took the opportunity to relax together, and see the beauty of their joint effort.

“We appreciate that young Marines came out and helped us clean this place,” said 73-year-old Yuriko Shimabukuro. “I’m looking forward to meeting them again at the upcoming Henoko Sports Day and Hari (Dragon Boat Races).”

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