NAGOMI ORPHANAGE, OKINAWA, Japan — As part of the Marine Corps’ force in readiness for the Asia-Pacific region, the Marines and Sailors of Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, are expected to be ready for anything. For this occasion, they were ready to play.
Twenty-one service members and a few family members donated part of their Saturday to play with local orphans and provide an American-style barbecue on Saturday. For a variety of reasons, the volunteers jumped at the opportunity to brighten the day of 26 Japanese children.
“I’m new to the island, so this was a great way to see some of the area while doing something nice for the kids,” said Cpl. Steven V. Stroud, a metalworker for CLB-31, 31st MEU, and native of Turlock. “The language barrier is tough, but fun is universal.”
The group began the day by getting to know the kids through sports, music and general play. Service members could be found alongside Japanese children climbing the jungle gym, pushing toy cars, kicking soccer balls, playing musical instruments and more.
The joy of having new playmates brought smiles to the children’s faces, and those smiles brought joy to the Marines and Sailors who happily filled the role.
“I used to be a teacher, so I missed this kind of interaction with children,” said 2nd Lt. Ciara G. Mamangun, adjutant for CLB-31, 31st MEU, and native of Virginia Beach, Va. “It’s great for these children to see people that care and want to spend time with them.”
While most played, a few Marines and Sailors tended the grill to provide lunch for the group. Cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chips, soda and tea satisfied everyone’s appetite.
As the group ate, they were regaled with traditional Okinawan music played by one of the students and popular American songs played by one of the family members. The event came to a close with a group photo, and a message of gratitude by the students and staff of the orphanage.
“We are very thankful for the visit and enjoyed spending time with (the Marines and Sailors),” said Naoto Nakasone, a student at Nagomi. “We really liked the food and ask that our friends come back very soon.”
Over the past two years, Marines and Sailors have visited Nagomi more than a dozen times. The tradition is one both parties hope to continue indefinitely.
“They know that the Marines and Sailors truly care for these children, and want to maintain this special relationship,” said Navy Lt. Kyu C. Lee, chaplain for CLB-31, 31st MEU, and a native of Seoul, South Korea.