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Marines form close relations local with community

Date Posted: 2004-02-26

OITA, Japan "There is more to serving your country than simply wearing a uniform," said Sgt. Joseph B. Crawford, administration clerk, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, and Bainbridge, Ga., native.

Sgt. Crawford and fellow Marines and Sailors came to Oita, to complete a safe and successful artillery relocation exercise and leave a positive impression of U.S. Marines on the local community.

"We came here to work," said Crawford, "but we're also ambassadors no matter where we go. Community relations projects give us the chance to experience the world through other people."

More than 40 Marines split their efforts between a local kindergarten and an aged home for the elderly in the communities around the Oita area. The Marines repainted a sign and planted a flower garden at the school and cleaned out drains at the nursing home before spending time with the children, men and women at each facility.

Most of the Marines in support of the artillery exercise volunteered their time to the community projects because it is just as rewarding for them as those they are serving.

"This gives us the chance to experience a different culture," said Cpl. Scott A. Mayer, section chief, Battery B, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, and Waterloo, Ill., native. "We have the opportunity to brighten their days just by showing up, it's good to know we can make a difference."

Once all the work was done, the fun started. At the school, the children performed a song and dance and sang "If You're Happy and You Know It" for the Marines. At the aged home, selected individuals performed a dance before teaching it to several of the Marines.

"This visit by the Marines has made the children very happy," said Yasuchiro Abe, principal of the Suginoko kindergarten. "It is good for the Marines to come here and give back to the community. My hope is their (the Marines) impression will make the children want to travel abroad as they grow and continue to learn because of it."

The Marines sang "Amazing Grace" for the school children and the men and women at the aged home and were rewarded with great applause.

"Many of these men and women don't have the opportunity to meet Americans," said Matsubara Kiichiro, director of the Kakakuen Nursing Home for the Aged. "They all look forward to the Marines' visit and always end up smiling."
Aside from the actual community relations projects, select Marines were also given the opportunity to visit some homes within the community for dinner with Japanese families.

"These home visits are unbelievable opportunities for the Marines," said Cpl. Brian Jones, radar operator and Tampa, Fla., native. "They (the Japanese) are always eager to meet us and it gives everyone involved the chance to break stereotypes and introduce themselves to a new culture."

For the Japanese civilians opening their doors to the Marines, it's a chance for them to thank the Marines for their work in the local community.

"This community supports the Marines' work," said Hirofumi Kawano, who welcomed seven Marines into his home for dinner. "Their activities harbor the relationship between our countries and this is a way we can show our gratitude."

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