OKINAWA, Japan – In
March 2011, a massive 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami destroyed residences
and displaced civilians along the coast of Tohoku, Japan. Support came from
around the world, to include Okinawa, to provide humanitarian assistance and
disaster relief to the affected area.
years later, Sgt. Maj. Mario Marquez, sergeant major of III Marine
Expeditionary Force and Lt. Col. Brian Clemens, deputy assistant chief of staff
for G-4, Command Element, III MEF revisited the region for the Tour de Tohoku,
an annual charity bicycle tour in Ishinomaki City, Japan Sept. 17, 2017. Tour
de Tohoku takes place along the coast of mainland Japan and is now held to
remember the victims of the disaster and to support continuing recovery efforts.
210 kilometers, taking on the longest route the tour had to offer. Marquez did
not ride his bicycle in the event this year, but rather spent his time volunteering
as a safety vehicle driver during the ride and participating in community
earthquake hit, Marquez was serving as the sergeant major of Marine Aircraft
Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and Clemens was the executive officer of Combat
Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group. Marquez and Clemens'
units were part of Operation Tomodachi, a search and rescue, disaster relief
and humanitarian aid effort that took place from March 12 to May 4, 2011.
”When I arrived in Tohoku (in 2011), we
immediately flew over the disaster areas and it was then that I realized this
event would change my life forever,” Marquez said.
he believed that due to the vast devastation in the area, there would be a huge
demand for aid, and the Japan Self-Defense Force and American Forces would band
together to help provide any assistance they could to the people of Tohoku.
“We immediately formed and conducted
operational planning teams to assess our logistics capabilities and formulate
courses of action in the event support was requested,” said Clemens. “Like all
of my fellow Marines and service members serving in Japan at that time, I was
deeply saddened by the effects of the Great East Japan earthquake and the
tragic loss of life and human suffering that followed.”
time in the Marine Corps, Marquez has assisted with relief efforts after two
natural disasters in Japan; the Great Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe in January
1995 and Operation Tomodachi in 2011. Since taking part in these disaster
relief efforts, Marquez said he feels a deep connection to the Japanese people
and that attending the tour to reach out to victims of the disaster was a
valuable and humbling experience.
“I wanted to talk to the people and wish them
good luck,” said Marquez. “I wanted to tell them to be strong and remember that
the world has never forgotten about them. The American people and friends from
the United States military will never forget the teamwork and friendships
developed during the great east Japan earthquake and Operation Tomodachi.”
tour, Marquez and Clemens visited the previously devastated areas and spoke with Japanese citizens who are still
recovering from the natural disaster.
“I have been inspired and humbled by the
indomitable spirit, resiliency, and courage of the residents of the Tohoku
region,” said Clemens. “Their efforts in the days, weeks, and years that
followed the disaster to rebuild their lives and the beautiful landscape
throughout the Miyagi prefecture are truly remarkable.”