HENOKO, Okinawa, Japan -- Typhoon Jelawat's violent winds and rain ripped through parts of the Henoko community Sept. 29, destroying Reiko Tokuda's family's home and belongings. However, Tokuda believes that every dark tunnel has a light at the end of it.
The light to her catastrophe appeared on a rainy, chilly day when Marines and sailors with Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, volunteered to help Tokuda take down her partially collapsed home and clean her land.
The volunteer work maintained the long-standing relationship between the Marine Corps and the Henoko community while providing a helping hand to a neighbor in a time of need, according to Gunnery Sgt. Daniel A Valdez, an electronics maintenance technician assigned to CAB.
Many of the volunteers empathized with the Tokuda family, knowing a natural disaster can happen anywhere, anytime, to anyone.
"Mother Nature is unpredictable, and we never expected for our house to come crashing down," said Tokuda.
Despite the harsh weather conditions, volunteers and residents overcame being drenched to continue their hard work to accomplish the cleanup.
There was a minor communication barrier, but volunteers were able to overcome that obstacle thanks to the skills of one Marine.
"I was able to make the residents feel comfortable with my ability to speak Japanese," said Cpl. Aaron S. Kang, a combat engineer and interpreter with the battalion. "Regardless of the language barrier, the amount of effort the servicemembers applied spoke volumes for their intentions."
Events like this continue to strengthen the U.S.–Japan alliance, according to Valdez. The Marines and sailors also learned the value of taking time from their own schedules and helping out others in need.
"The event has inspired me to volunteer my time and effort more to the community throughout Okinawa," said Kang.
The relationship between servicemembers from Camp Schwab and the Henoko community will grow every time the two are able to work together and help each other out, according to Tokuda.
"We are appreciative," said Tokuda. "We thank the servicemembers for their hard work."