CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan—Boots hit the dewy black pavement with a strong sense of purpose. Marines in kevlar helmets and body armor strain under the pressure of heavy packs as their leaders urge them on. Tired, worn-out, and full of absolute dedication to the mission, the Marines hike their way to the objective with a quiet resolve.
Today, the Marines face a different mission than usual, with no enemy, real or simulated, waiting for them at the objective. Today, rather than lugging pounds of military equipment, ammunition, and weapons, the Marines hike with a more cheerful purpose: delivering toys for local children.
This lighthearted operation was completed by Marines with Bulk Fuel Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, who dedicated their morning December 16th to a cause that went beyond unit physical fitness training.
Packs decorated for the occasion swayed with the steps of the Marines arrayed in a reindeer-like formation as they circled up at their endpoint. The hike culminated with the Marines unloading 349 toys from their packs and delivering them for the local charity initiative, “Omocha for Orphans”, an initiative for providing toys to orphans across Okinawa. “Omocha for Orphans” is coordinated by HelpOki, a nonprofit organization formed nine years ago by retired Marine Christopher Nesbitt, dedicated to supporting those less fortunate throughout the Ryukyu Islands by supporting orphanages, foodbanks and other local outreach programs.
Due to Covid-19 precautions for the health of the children, Mr. Nesbitt was present to collect the toys from the event to deliver to the children of the orphanages.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to show the children how much the Marines and the local community care about them,” explained Captain Dorothy Hernandez, company commander of Bulk Fuel Co., “Since they can’t be present for the delivery, we are providing photos and including letters of encouragement with each of the gifts.”
The exchange is a first for 9th ESB, whose leadership organized the event with hopes of giving back to the community and spreading joy for the holidays.
“Although this event is a first for Bulk Fuel Co., this will set the precedent for an annual tradition with the unit,” added Hernandez.
With the inability to return home this year due to Covid-19, homesickness is particularly on the minds of many service members island-wide. 9th ESB’s leadership organized the hike along with the toy drop to raise morale, build esprit de corps, and strengthen camaraderie during these tough times.
“With the economic impacts of the virus hitting Okinawa especially hard, this year presented a unique opportunity to fill a very real need in the local community and communicate our care and respect for the residents of Okinawa,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Paul Runge, a platoon commander with Bulk Fuel Company. “It’s also beneficial at a time when our Marines can’t be as close to their own loved ones to see that their sacrifices have a significant and positive impact.”
Readers interested in contributing to Omocha for Orphans can send an email to email@example.com, send a message to Omocha for Orphans’ Facebook page, or contact Chris Nesbitt at +81 80-4403-9855.