OKINAWA, Japan - Sweat rolled down the faces of Marines and sailors as they worked through the heat of another summer day. But this day was different as the service members had traded in their service rifles and tactical vehicles for rakes and lawn mowers.
Service members with Marine Aircraft Group 36 volunteered their time to help give back to the local community Aug. 2 by performing groundskeeping at the Ichijo-en Elders’ Home.
MAG-36 is a part of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“We are currently working on developing a partnership between the elders’ home and MAG-36 to come out at least once a month to help with anything they might need,” said Seaman Apprentice Charles J. Foster, a religious program specialist with MAG-36. “It’s important that we participate in volunteer opportunities like these because it helps strengthen the relationship between the service members on the island and the community.”
Though the group of Marines and sailors was small, the impact they made at the facility was huge.
“I appreciate all the help the (service members) provided,” said Yoshimichi Chinen, the Ichijo-en Elders’ Home’s section chief of nursing. “The home doesn’t receive many volunteers and after the elders see what they have done, they will be so happy.”
The service members performed groundskeeping to help beautify the area around the home.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to give back to the community,” said Cpl. Ericka M. Schork, an administrative specialist with MAG-36. “I enjoy being able to help out however possible, even if it is just cutting grass and pulling weeds.”
One of the greatest benefits for volunteers at events like these is the opportunity to be an active part of the community, according to Navy Lt. Rodney E. Weaver, the MAG-36 command chaplain.
“When the community members see us helping clean up, it is an opportunity to show them a positive side of the military,” said Weaver. “It shows the community that we are not just here to do our job, but we are also here to help support the community in any way possible.”
At the end of the event, the group had gathered three 30-gallon bags of grass trimmings and debris.
“It’s amazing to see how much we were able to accomplish in the few hours we were here,” said Schork. “It just goes to show how working together as a team to get a mission completed helps.”
After completing the groundskeeping tasks, the home provided the service members with some local Okinawa cuisine as a sign of thanks and new friendship.
“Sharing some fried squid and fish was our way of saying thank you,” said Chinen. “The (service members) are always welcome to come back and help.”