CAMP ZAMA, Japan (April 3, 2020) – Lucas Burns was looking forward to celebrating his fifth birthday at his favorite cartoon-themed cafe in Tokyo.
However, recommended travel restrictions and social distancing in the wake of the worldwide spread of the coronavirus made it impossible for Lucas and his family to follow through on those plans.
Lucas’ mother, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jennifer Burns, assigned to the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, said she began thinking about different ways to celebrate her son’s birthday that did not include throwing him a traditional party.
Jennifer said she had seen several examples of “socially distanced” events online in recent weeks. This led her to the idea of requesting support from members of her community via social media in order to help celebrate Lucas’ birthday in a unique way. Jennifer’s idea was to have friends and other residents at the Sagamihara Family Housing Area put on a “birthday parade” for Lucas.
At around 5 p.m. on April 2, a line of cars drove past the Burns residence. They waved, honked their horns and shouted birthday wishes to Lucas—all from the requisite safe distance. An excited Lucas waved back to them while holding a handmade sign that read, “I Am 5!”
Jennifer said she got far more responses than she expected from people who wanted to participate in the parade, adding that the huge turnout was “beyond her imagination.”
“Some [of the people in the parade] were friends of ours, and others we had never met,” Jennifer said.
Anna West, a participant in the parade, said she and her husband decided to take part in the event after seeing Jennifer’s online plea to help make her son’s fifth birthday special.
“It brought joy to my heart to see the community come together to help Lucas celebrate his birthday, while maintaining social distancing,” West said.
Burns said Lucas told her he loved the parade, proclaiming it “his favorite part of the whole day.”
Burns and her husband are both active-duty Soldiers and don’t get to see their children as much as they would like to, she said. The “stay at home” measures put in place as a result of the coronavirus have actually been “a blessing” for them, as they have been able to telework from home and spend more time with their family.
Lucas’ father, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Garrett Burns, also assigned to the 38th ADA Brigade, drove the lead car in his son’s birthday parade.
“Thankfully, the community was amazing and supportive of our idea to make something [positive] out of an unfortunate time we’re going through here on Camp Zama and SHA,” Garrett said.
Garrett said his son told him he was very excited to see so many people come to celebrate his birthday, calling it “the best birthday ever.” The event even set a precedent—after the parade, Lucas told his father, “You need to get more people next year.”