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Marines, sailors build walkways to new friendships

Date Posted: 2005-07-15

YOMITAN VILLAGE, OKINAWA, Japan — A group of 12 Marines and sailors from different units on Camp Hansen took a day away from work, here June 29 to volunteer at Okinawa Christian School International, an institution with both Okinawan and American students in attendance.

The project these service members began will be an on-going project, and will last about a month. Troops are expected to visit the school twice a week until the work is complete.

Their work consists of laying cement to construct a sidewalk around the OCSI dormitory and repainting the handrails of the school’s outdoor stairways.

More than 25 service members have already had the opportunity to volunteer by responding to an e-mail sent out by Chaplain Don Biadog, the command chaplain for Marine Headquarters Group, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and deputy chaplain for the 3rd MEF.

“I saw the e-mail and decided it would be a good thing to come help out,” said Lance Cpl. Benjamin Reynolds, a basic hygiene operator with 3rd Marine Headquarters Group.

The volunteer work helped the school to save money, which is always a “good thing,” according to Biadog. These volunteers helped OCSI save approximately $6,000 in labor costs and supplies by coming out and working.

The funds the school saves by having the U.S. military come volunteer at the school are put to good use, according to Randal Hadley, the superintendent of the school.

“By them coming in and helping with these different projects, we’re saving money,” Hadley said. “It allows us to make education available to more students, because we can keep the tuition lower.”

OCSI has had a good relationship with the U.S. military since the school was founded in 1957, continued Hadley. The relationship was improved even more when the school moved to its present location during the 1996-1997 school year. The military helped them with their move by providing trucks, trailers and drivers to help relocate the school’s furnishings.

Pfc. Savanna Magnuson is glad she’s able to keep the relationship strong between the local community and the military.

“We’re helping out the community we’re staying in,” said Magnuson, a warehouse clerk with 3 rd Marine Headquarters Group. “This isn’t our place – we’re just borrowing it.”

Hadley is greatly appreciative that so many service members share the same attitude as Magnuson.

“(The service members) do make a big difference,” Hadley said. “Not only with the work they’re doing, but also as the example they’re setting as role models when they come out. Our students look up to them.”

The students can look up to the current group of volunteers as painters, architects, service members or even medical technicians.

The volunteers’ good work doesn’t go unnoticed by the students of the school.

“In return, we try to reciprocate by helping Marines and sailors with morale – we send groups over to the chapels and the (United Services Organization),” Hadley said. “We’re just grateful of the help we’ve received from the U.S. military.”

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