MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BUTLER, OKINAWA, Japan --
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BUTLER, Okinawa, Japan -- The highest-ranking U.S. military commander on Okinawa announced today that all service members and Status of Forces Agreement personnel on Okinawa began a 30-day period of unity and mourning as of May 27, 2016, in a show of solidarity and unity with those grieving the death of an Okinawan woman.
“There are no words in the English language that can adequately convey our level of shock, pain and grief at the loss of life of this innocent victim,” said Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, the Okinawa Area Coordinator and commanding general for III Marine Expeditionary Force. “This was not simply an attack on an Okinawan woman by an American civilian, this was an attack on all that we hold dear as human beings.”
On April 28, 2016, an investigation began looking into the whereabouts of a missing local national. The 20-year old female Okinawan was found deceased on May 19, 2016.
The Okinawa Prefectural Police arrested a suspect connected with her disappearance on May 19, 2016. The 32-year old worked with a government-contracted company.
“We consider it inexcusable, and we are committed to doing everything that we can to prevent any crimes from taking place of this sort,” said President Barack Obama, commander and chief of the United States military.
In addition to observing the period of unity and mourning, the U.S. military is cooperating fully with the local authorities in their investigation.
Individual service members and local Okinawans are showing solidarity with the community in their own ways.
Today, a local church comprised of Okinawan nationals and U.S. military service members organized a silent memorial to express their condolences to the friends, family and all of Okinawa in respect of the recent tragedy. Members of the congregation gathered outside of Camp Lester and held signs expressing a sentiment such as “we pray with Okinawa” and “we mourn with Okinawa” during the memorial.
“The purpose of today was to show the Okinawans our love, and to show we are in unity with them,” said Christian Siangco, the senior pastor at Neighborhood Church Okinawa. “We mourn with Okinawa and we pray with Okinawa.
Nicholson stated that the 30-day period of unity and mourning is out of respect for the people of Okinawa.
“What we’re doing is not about punishment. The liberty change is out of respect,” Nicholson said. “We mourn together … this is about honoring the victim and sharing grief with the Okinawan people.”
More than 50,000 SOFA-status personnel reside on Okinawa. Many live off base, in the same communities as the local citizens.
“The period of unity and mourning will include the postponement of all festivals, celebration and concerts on our bases and stations,” said Nicholson. “We are part of this community. We live in your towns and villages. We will grieve and mourn together as well.”
The period will serve as time to reflect on personal conduct, to consider their roles as ambassadors to Japan, and demonstrate the deepest sympathies for the victim and her family.
“My request to the people of Okinawa is simple; please do not allow this terrible act of violence to drive a wedge between our two communities,” said Nicholson. “Our prayers and thoughts are and will remain with the family of the innocent victim.”