KIN TOWN, OKINAWA, Japan – Members of the Hikariga Oka Nursing Home hosted a Christmas party for Marines with 7th Communication Battalion at Hikariga Oka Nursing Home, Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 18, 2015.
The nursing home hosts the party annually to thank the battalion for their continuous community outreach projects. Since 1994 Marines from 7th Comm. Bn., III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF, regularly volunteer to help maintain the home’s grounds and organize routine cleanups.
“For about 20 years, we have been working with the nursing home,” said Capt. Maria Harley, the Headquarters company commander with 7th Comm. Bn., III MHG, III MEF. “We like interacting with the residents, and they like to interact with us. It also helps us with shedding a good light on our battalion in Kin Town, keeping the bond between our two countries strong.”
The Marines volunteer twice a month help with everything from mowing the lawn to picking weeds out of the garden, according to Harley, from El Campo, Texas.
“We get a select amount of Marines to go help with picking up leaves, mowing the grass, and various yard work around the home,” said Harley. “Helping around the nursing home allows the Marines to interact with the residents. Some of the residents don’t have families so, when a Marine walks up to a resident and shakes their hand and says, 'Ohayou gozaimasu (good morning),' it puts a smile on their faces and makes their day.”
The Marines and nursing home residents take turns providing food for holidays, according to Ayako Ginoza, the director of the nursing home.
“In November the Marines brought food for the Thanksgiving feast and we wanted to repay that to them by providing them with Okinawan food for Christmas,” said Ginoza, from Kin Town, Okinawa, Japan. “The Marines do so much for us around the home that we are extremely thankful for their help and willing to repay them anyway we can.”
The Christmas party brings smiles from the Okinawan nursing home patrons and the Marines. Though the residents and the Marines don’t speak the same language, they didn’t let that get in the way of sharing a great day together with songs, presents and food.
“Events like this bring the Marines and the Okinawans together in one place,” said Ginoza. “It makes the residents happy, the workers happy, and the Marines. This event has been going on for so long that I believe the relationship with the Marines and the nursing home will continue for generations to come.”