CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Oct. 11, 2019) -- U.S. Army Garrison Japan Army Community Service tackled the issue of domestic violence through their third annual "Purple Pumpkin" event on Oct. 9.

A steady stream of Camp Zama community members--Soldiers, civilian employees, spouses and children--stopped by the organization's headquarters to pick out purple pumpkins, decorate them, listen to music, eat pizza and learn about the issue of domestic violence.

October is Army Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the idea was for attendees to take the decorated purple pumpkins home and display them to raise awareness, said Stan Austin, manager of the USAG Japan ACS Family Advocacy Program and an organizer of the event.

"Halloween is great, and jack-o-lanterns and decorated pumpkins are a symbol of Halloween, but put the purple one out there, showing that you support the ending of domestic violence," Austin said.

During the event, USAG Japan Commander Col. Thomas Matelski and USAG Japan Command Sgt. Maj. Billy Norman signed a domestic violence awareness proclamation that noted people in Army communities can receive help through ACS Family Advocacy Programs, Military OneSource and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

In addition, Matelski spoke about the issue.

"Domestic violence is prevalent in every community and affects all people regardless of age, socioeconomic status, gender, race, religion or nationality," Matelski said. "And unfortunately, on the average, 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute. That's every minute of the day. Ten million victims are abused in the United States every year."

Abuse can involve a wide range of behaviors and actions, including threats to hurt or kill, the use of force, and emotional, psychological, verbal and economic abuse, Matelski said.

It is important to recognize that domestic violence happens in military communities, and addressing problems early can help prevent it, Matelski said.

"Any time an Army family member suffers from abuse, we fall short of the goals of our readiness for the force," Matelski said.

In recognition of that fact, many Soldiers attended the event.

For example, Lt. Col. Demetrick Thomas, commander of the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, and 35th CSSB Command Sgt. Maj. Edgar Rodriguez, as well as more than a dozen Soldiers from the battalion, attended and decorated pumpkins.

Thomas said when he learned about the event he decided to attend and bring Soldiers with him.

"I think it's an important cause that everybody needs to be aware of and support, so I asked the Soldiers to come out to show support for the community as well as the awareness of domestic violence," Thomas said.

Thomas said he intends to display his pumpkin in front of the battalion's building to raise awareness about domestic violence.

Meanwhile, several family members attended as well. Johanna Robinson brought her daughter Valerie, 5, and they decorated pumpkins together.

"We like to support ACS and our community, and my kids love this event," Robinson said. "We've been [in Japan] for two years now and for two years we've been coming to the event. It's a good way to spread awareness for domestic violence. I love it."

Also in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, FAP is hosting troop training events that include sketches and discussions from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Camp Zama Community Recreation Center, and they will also support a troop training at 10 a.m. Oct. 18 at the Yokosuka Naval Air Station CRC. Members of the community are welcome to attend.