MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
“Seven years ago, Mama-san (Machiko Hamamoto, honorary Marine) a lance corporal and a captain came and picked up trash here,” said Lt. Cmdr. Denise Wallingford, Marine Aircraft Group 12 chaplain.
Recently, 137 station residents participated in a cleanup of the Kintai Bridge area.
“The bridge is such a huge icon of this area and for us to be involved and help clean it up and interact with the Japanese people, I think it’s a really good thing,” said Wallingford.“We want to engage with the Japanese people and we want them to know that we appreciate them as our host nation and we respect them. Just because they have heard some negative things, that isn’t who we are. The majority of us really love the Japanese people and love being here.”
Good Samaritans donned rubber gloves and carried plastic bags during their pursuit of trash and debris while taking in sights of the blossoming cherry trees.
“Within the next week or two, they’re going to have the cherry blossoms viewing, so picking up the trash and making the area look really nice for that is a way we can engage in the community,” said Wallingford.
Marines, sailors and family members spanned the sidewalks next to the Kintai Bridge, down below the wooden beams and even by the waterside.
After they disposed of the trash, participants seized the opportunity to visit local food stands and souvenir shops during “hanami,” translated into cherry blossom viewing.
“It felt pretty good to help out the community. We got a lot of smiles from a lot of different people who were happy to see us here,” said Lance Cpl. Brian Mayo, cleanup participant. “There was this guy with a dog who ran up to both of us and took a picture with us.”
Wallingford said there is also a possibility of going to the beach south of town for more cleaning projects.
The station chapel conducts multiple community relation events monthly, which include cleanups, visiting local schools to teach English, and more.
Those wishing to participate in such events should call their unit chaplain or the station chapel.