Misawa sailors boost morale for tsunami-ravaged community
TARO, Japan (NNS) -- Over 40 Sailors assigned to the Naval Air Facility (NAF) Misawa provided the residents of Taro, Japan, who were displaced from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami, a barbecue and sports day, May 25.
"I've wanted to come back to this area since I took part in the initial recovery efforts during Operation Tomadachi, more than two years ago," said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Andrew Thomasson, barbecue organizer. "Our Sailors love helping out the local Misawa community and they always do a phenomenal job. So we decided to utilize Memorial Day weekend to travel further south outside our immediate prefecture and into an area we haven't been to in about a year.
"For some of the folks here, this is the first time they've ever seen an American citizen, let alone a Navy Sailor," said Thomasson. "So it is very important that we show them that we truly care. In doing so, we decided to conduct a good old American-style barbecue, and also brought along volleyball, badminton, and baseball equipment so they could all have some fun as well."
Over 100 attending residents, mostly children, spent the afternoon eating hamburgers and hot dogs, and interacting with the Navy Misawa Sailors. Although the Sailors and Taro residents may not speak the same verbal language, they definitely enjoyed the international language of sports, dance, and fun.
"From experience, we know that we don't always have to speak the same language to communicate. Throughout the course of the day, our Sailors played catch with the kids, painted the nails of some of the girls, and they all even learned how to perform the traditional Japanese Bon Odori dance," said Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Daniel Sanford, NAF Misawa public affairs officer. "For me, the highlight of the day was watching the residents and our Sailors dance to "Gangnam Style." It was great to see everyone smiling and having a great time, which is precisely the reason we are here."
The event was facilitated with the help of Tokuya Kanto, of the Misawa Air Base fire department. Thomasson had worked with Kanto on previous community relation projects in the past. Kanto expressed an interest in continuing Navy Misawa's efforts in the recovering community.
"I remember Chief Thomasson from Operation Tomadachi," said Kanto. "He told me he wanted to help again, but this time as a special project that would help build a lasting friendship. Many of the older women today were happy to see the young Sailors."
The enthusiasm of NAF Misawa Sailors was high. Many would be glad to host a function like this again.
"Chief Thomasson said he would like to make this an annual event," said Kanto.
"This is my first duty station and my first volunteer event," said Yeomen Seaman Dominique Campos. "I'm really happy I took part. It was great seeing how happy we made the kids. I really feel like we made a difference."
For more news from U.S. Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan, visit www.navy.mil/local/nafmisawa/ .