MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Retired Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Elder Hal Pierce, a service missionary with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, served his country for 21 years and now continues to serve in any way that he can.
“After retiring, I felt like this was a time in my life when I needed to give back,” said Pierce.
He began as a minister going to community events with his youth group and is now supporting troops aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
“When I was a minister over the youth group, we visited nursing homes every Sunday and did nondenominational sing-a-longs and through that, I felt a friendship being made.” said Pierce.
According to Pierce, becoming a friend is the best way to make people happy and that is why he volunteers.
Pierce said he asked for three things when he applied for his mission: warm climate, an English speaking environment and a military installation or a visitor’s center, and he got all three when they sent him to MCAS Iwakuni.
“My wife and I were hesitant about coming here because of the language barrier, but we’ve overcome that by communicating with hand gestures,” said Peirce.
Liane Pierce, Hal Pierce’s wife, is a supportive, active volunteer alongside her husband.
“Hal is extremely giving, very unselfish and kind-hearted,” said Liane Pierce. “I have seen him grow 100 percent because he loves what he does, he loves to give. If there’s a word greater than passionate, that’s him, but we’re in this together. We help out wherever we can.”
Hal Pierce visited Nadamien Nursing Home, accompanied by other volunteers from MCAS Iwakuni, Dec. 19, 2014, during a community relations event.
“I had a great time there,” said Hal Pierce. “I didn’t know what I would be doing today but they handed me a Santa suit, I put it on and we sang and interacted with the residents. It made me feel great that we brightened their day and maybe refreshed their memory of happy times in their life. It was a great time for me and hopefully for them too.”
Community relations events not only bring joy to people, but they’re also a way to establish a friendship between the U.S. and Japan, said Hal Pierce.
“I really do believe we can help our relationship with Japan through acts of kindness,” said Hal Peirce. “I could tell they really appreciated what we were doing. I don’t think it mattered whether we were American or Japanese.”
Hal Pierce added that seeing the smiles on their faces as he walked around dressed as Santa made his day and is the reason he continues to volunteer.
Although they love volunteering their time, they were always nervous that all the volunteer work they do might make them really tight on money, but it always seemed to work out according to Liane Pierce.
“We probably spend about $600 to $700 a month volunteering and proving food for Marines here,” said Hal Pierce. “So it is a sacrifice in that regard, because it’s money we could have saved or used for ourselves but we chose to use it that way and that is fine with us.”