OKINAWA, Japan, –
More than 30 U.S. Navy Sailors joined dozens of local volunteers to place thousands of ceremonial candles at the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park in Itoman City, June 22, to honor the more than 250,000 Japanese and American lives lost during the Battle of Okinawa, the third deadliest battle ever fought by U.S. service members.
Naoki Matsukawa, the director of the non-profit organization Bankoku Shinryo-No-Kai, said the Navy volunteers taking the time out of their day to help set up the candles is truly appreciated.
“Everyone, whether Sailors, Americans or Japanese, wishes for peace,” Said Matsukawa. “I hope we all work together for eternal peace.”
The candles were lit during the Lamplight of Peace event the day prior to "Irei no Hi," or Okinawa Memorial Day, which has been observed by the prefecture since 1961.
For some Sailors this event is more than just putting down candles, but a way of showing that they care about the community they live in.
Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Mark-David Moles, from Ellijay, Ga., assigned to Navy Data Center Detachment Okinawa said, “I feel like it is our duty to participate in these things that go on around the local community. It's really good for the local community to understand that for us as service members, we like to give back.”
The Peace Prayer Memorial Statue can also be found on the site. It symbolizes prayer for the souls of those killed in wars and for everlasting world peace, and the National War Dead Peace Mausoleum, along with 50 monuments from other prefectures and organizations that are all located in the southern region of the park.
“I’m just really grateful that I could experience this and be a part of it,” said Moles.