OKINAWA, Japan -- A letter written more than 50 years ago, inspired a young Boy Scout to visit a memorial in 2007, sadden by the condition of the memorial; he would later create an annual tradition nine years in the making.
U.S. Army Soldiers and civilians from U.S. Army Garrison-Okinawa, 10th Support Group (Regional), with the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) program, joined efforts with the Single Marine Program, American and Japanese Boy Scouts and Japanese citizens to help clean up the Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, Jr. memorial site 18 April, located in Itoman City.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit these historic sites," said Pfc. Patrick Day, satellite network controller, 53rd Signal Battalion. "I wanted to do everything I can while I'm here in Okinawa, and volunteering to honor our own heroes here in Japan is a unique opportunity."
The opportunity was created by Takeshi Kinjo, an Eagle Scout with Troop 101 of the Greater Okinawa District of the Boy Scouts of America, after reading a letter that was written by U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, commander of the 10th Army, who was killed in action by an artillery round while standing between two boulders watching the first combat operations of the 8th Marine Regiment, June 18, 1945.
The letter was addressed to Japanese Army Lt. Gen. Mitsura Ushijima, commander of the 32nd Army, during the final days of the Battle of Okinawa in which Buckner praised the spirit of the Japanese Soldiers and urged Ushijima to surrender, although Ushijima refused to give up and instead took his own life.
"It's about getting everyone involved in the community and interacting with one another to building lasting relationships," Cpl. Yicinniya Williams, vice president, Single Marine's Program. "Getting Marines to contribute to the local community and interact with wonderful people."
More than 100 volunteers worked together in a common goal to keep the memory of the soldiers who gave their lives during the Battle of Okinawa. The site is also the present location of memorials honoring U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Claudius M. Easley, 383rd Infantry Regiment, killed in action on June 19, 1945, and U.S. Army Col. Edwin T. May, 383rd Infantry Regiment, killed in action on June 5, 1945.
Bags of debris were piling up as the soldiers cut overgrown vegetation, Marines planted trees, Boy Scouts and their families picked up leaves and trash around the site.
"General Buckner would be honored," said Akira Oshiro, administrator, Okinawa Peace Memorials. "We come together every year to foster relationships with one another and continue to honor the soldiers, we appreciate the support from the U.S. Army, Marines and local Boy Scouts."
For more information on the memorial site please visit http://heiwa.irei-okinawa.jp