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Marines, Okinawans encourage safe driving

Date Posted: 2005-09-29

URUMA CITY, OKINAWA, Japan – Thirty local senior citizens and five Camp Courtney Marines participated in the 2005 Drive Safe Campaign held on the streets of Uruma City Sept 21.

The Okinawan campaign, organized by the Kawasaki Senior Community Group, has been held in Uruma City for the past six years in order to remind motorists to drive safely and slowly on Okinawa. This is the third year Marines have participated in the campaign.

“We really appreciate the Marines’ help,” said Yasu Yamada, a member of the community group. “The Marines on Camp Courtney are our neighbors, and this gives us a chance to come together as one community.”

Marines and Okinawans handed motorists safe driving flyers, individually wrapped candy and 300 handcrafted charms, called Omamori.

Omamori are miniature, hat-shaped good luck charms filled with sea salt. Okinawans believe the charms ward off evil spirits and, in this case, bad driving habits.

The volunteers began roving the streets at 7 a.m. and stayed for more than an hour to distribute all the flyers and charms to both pedestrians and drivers passing by.

“We chose to be here early because this is when most people are in a hurry to get to work,” said Lt. Col. Charlie Schaupp, Camp Courtney deputy camp commander.

After the campaign, the Marines had a few minutes to talk and laugh with their new senior citizen friends.

“This (project) was another opportunity for us to bond under a common issue,” explained Col. Jim Reilly, Camp Courtney commander. “The drivers here aren’t bad, but they need to be aware of their responsibilities as drivers.”

The Kawasaki Senior Community Group was established to keep senior citizens active in their community, explained Choshin Kokuba, the Kawasaki sub-village chief. The group organizes community activities and helps members when they are sick or need of assistance.

“I would love to be able to do more with the community,” Reilly said. “These occasions help build trust and strengthen our bond as neighbors.”

“This was a great opportunity to interact with the local Okinawans,” said Pfc. Nicholas R. Becker, a digital (multi-channel) wideband transmission equipment operator with Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion 3rd Marine Division. “We don’t often get a chance to work with them on something that affects us all.”

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