OKINAWA CITY, Okinawa –
Santa made a special appearance at Tsukushi-En, a local
special needs school, Dec. 17 to spread holiday cheer to dozens of children,
but instead of his usual entourage of elves and reindeer, St. Nick was flanked
by U.S. Soldiers for this special mission.
The U.S. Army Garrison -- Okinawa Better Opportunities
for Single Soldiers program received donations to purchase toys for 31 children
whose reaction to Father Christmas ranged from delight to fright, but when the
gifts came out, all were excited.
"Out of all my volunteer events that I have done
while serving in the U.S. Army, I would have to say that this was the best
volunteer experience ever," said Staff Sgt. Kristian A. Rubio, who serves
as a Dental Specialist at Torii Station. "Being able to see the children's
eyes light up and smiles glow was an incredible feeling … The children were the
ones that filled my heart with Christmas Spirit," he said.
The BOSS program at U.S. Army Garrison -- Okinawa serves
to enhance the quality of life and morale of single Soldiers who make up nearly
35 percent of the Army according to Human Resources Command. A core component
of the BOSS program is making a difference by volunteering in community
projects and events, according to www.armymwr.com.
"These events are great for BOSS soldiers because
it's a great way for us to show that single soldiers care about the community
and are here to make a difference," said Sgt. Matthew Jewell, a signal
Soldier with 10th Regional Support Group. "No matter how small or big it
is we are able to make a difference to those that need us … It's a great
reminder and a great feeling."
Though they are stationed overseas, BOSS program
volunteers find a way to navigate the language and cultural obstacles to get
out into the community to make a difference and give back to their neighbors,
"When you are kind to someone, you hope that they'll
remember and be kind to someone else," he said.
For the children of the Tsukushi-En special needs school,
a visit from Santa and his helpers was a welcomed event.
"I hope their appreciation could reach [the]
volunteer's heart," said Katsue Teruya, who works at the school. "To
experience and learn different culture are very good for their emotional
development. Again, we'd like to extend our sincere appreciation for Army's
support," she said.