Marines, Okinawa residents share traditions during USO Easter celebration

CAMP SCHWAB, OKINAWA, Japan – Camp Schwab opened its gates for Henoko and Nago City residents to experience Easter traditions with service members and their families during an Easter celebration. The event was hosted April 4, by the United Services Organization.

The day began at 9 a.m. with Marine volunteers setting up several activities for the children; moving tables and chairs, setting up tents and bringing in an Amphibious Assault Vehicle to showcase during the celebration.

“We are trying to share the American Easter culture with the local community,” said William C. Stanley, an Asheville, North Carolina, native, and the center manager for USO Camp Schwab.

Okinawa families began trickling on to the base at 11 a.m. to begin the day’s festivities. They were greeted by the Marines and shown the different activities that were available, such as egg dyeing, making rabbit masks and an Easter egg hunt.

Col. David Odom, commanding officer of Camp Schwab, and 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, gave opening remarks.

“Easter is a big religious event in America, but it’s also a time for renewal,” said Odom, a Hartsville, South Carolina, native. “It (represents) a renewal of friendships, a renewal of the weather during the spring season, and new opportunities.”

The children scattered to the different activities where Marine volunteers were eager to supervise and interact with them, according to Lance Cpl. Julian E. Gutierrez, a rifleman with 4th Marines.

“Volunteer opportunities like this build bonds, trust and friendships between service members and the local community,” said Gutierrez, a Los Angeles, California, native. “Seeing the children smile and experience something new is exciting and rewarding for me.”

The celebration concluded with a visit from the Easter Bunny. Children crowded around the bunny, whom handed out prizes and took photos with them.

The USO plans to make the Easter celebration an annual event, according to Odom.

“We are fortunate to have such a strong relationship with the people of Henoko and Nago City,” said Odom. “We will continue to strengthen our bond by sharing our culture and our home with them.”

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