CAMP KINSER, OKINAWA, Japan -- As volunteers prepared food for a Thanksgiving feast, an aroma of turkey and pumpkin pie filled the air. One by one, children stepped off a bus and were guided into the chapel by service members and spouses for a home cooked meal.
Marines, sailors and spouses participated in the second annual Thanksgiving celebration Nov. 23 with residents and staff of the Tai Chu En Children’s Home at the Camp Kinser Chapel.
“It’s awesome, and a big part of it is just to smile,” said Marine Lt. Caleb Wu, a communications officer with Headquarters Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “These kids do not have moms and dads that spend a lot of time with them. It’s a great opportunity for us to come out and show them we care.”
The Marines and sailors taught the children about Thanksgiving traditions as they made pilgrim and American Indian paper hats. Following the crafts, the children took their seats for an American Thanksgiving meal.
“Every time we get together they see us more and more like family,” said Lt. Cmdr. Harvey Macklin, from Holyoke, Colorado, and the command chaplain with CLR-35, 3rd MLG, III MEF. “We want to be seen like their big brothers and sisters.”
The celebration was not only important because of the annual holiday, but also for the time the children and Marines shared.
“We were very excited,” said Yoshino Uehara the translator for the home. “We only celebrate Thanksgiving when we are invited by the Marines. When we come here we feel like family.”
Although Japan does not observe Thanksgiving, the local residents left the celebration with a greater knowledge of how the holiday is celebrated in America.
“They might not understand the holiday in the way that Americans celebrate it, but Thanksgiving is something that we can all be thankful for,” said Wu, from New York, New York. “No matter where we are in the world, we can always find family.”
The celebration concluded with heart-warming words from a representative from the children’s home and the regimental commander.
“I just want to say thank you to everybody who made the plans and helped out with this meal,” said Uehara, from Haebaru Town. “We will be coming back next month for the Christmas party that they invite us to every year. (The kids are) looking forward to seeing the Marines again.”
Sharing smiles and experiences with the residents and staff of the home continues the friendship and family relationship between everyone involved, according to Col. Ronald Braney, commanding officer for the CLR 35, 3rd MLG, III MEF.
“I think they really enjoyed it because they understand how thankful we are for the bond and friendships we have with them,” said Braney, from Stafford, Virginia. “They get to enjoy a little bit of our culture as well, and that’s really important.”