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Common WWII era Imperial Japanese Army uniform, equipment and weapons sit on display inside the Battle of Okinawa Historical Display at Camp Kinser during a Marine Corps Community Services-sponsored tour of historically significant points of interest across southern Okinawa, Japan, July 13, 2018. During the tour, Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit learned about the savage fighting of the Battle of Okinawa, which pitted U.S. Marine, U.S. Navy and U.S. Army forces against the Imperial Forces of Japan. The more than two-month battle claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, both military and civilian, between April and mid-June 1945. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish/Released)

Photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish

31st MEU Marines, Sailors build understanding of Okinawa Battle history

23 Jul 2018 | Cpl. Bernadette Wildes 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit participated in a Marine Corps Community Services-sponsored battle sites tour around Okinawa, Japan, July, 13, 2018. When they took their first steps on top of Hacksaw Ridge they were taken back to 1945, standing in the footprints of those before them.

It’s important for Marines to know their history and connect with past generations, according to Chris Majewski, lead tour guide with MCCS.

“This is our history,” said Majewski, a former Marine who has lived in Okinawa since 1993. “You can sit with your nose in a book all day, but to actually be there brings it to life. To know where you’re going you have to know where you’ve been. This is our background. This is our heritage.”

Throughout the day the Marines and Sailors visited the Battle of Okinawa Historical Display at Camp Kinser, the Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters and the Peace Memorial Park. After visiting each historical landmark the Marines and Sailors learned more about the battle, according to Majewski.

“Seeing the cost, the sacrifice and what is was all about, it gave them a different view of Okinawa,” said Majewski.

For most participants, the tour was a first. After talking and learning about the Corps’ history in Okinawa, they were able to fully submerge themselves in history and see where it all took place, according to Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony Wood Casella.

“It was an amazing experience overall,” said Wood Casella. “We saw what they saw, we got to see pieces of our history in front of our eyes. We got to reach out and touch the battlefields they were on all those years ago.”

Wood Casella said by the end of the day everyone walked away with something new, a new connection to the generations that came before them.

“Being there was an experience all on its own,” said Wood Casella. “We hear their stories and we stand where they stood. I’ve never felt more connected to history before.”