CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Apr. 29, 2021) – More than 20 Soldiers and staff from U.S. Army Medical Department Activities – Japan volunteered April 22 to clean up Zama Yatoyama Park, located near Camp Zama, in celebration of Earth Day.
Capt. Mathew Schmidt, assigned to MEDDAC-J, who was in charge of the event as the chairperson for the MEDDAC-J Sustainability Committee, said he and his team partnered with park management and Zama City to hold the park cleanup project.
“I thought it would be a great activity for Earth Day and a nice service for the community,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said he initially envisioned the event would entail picking up trash, but because the park is kept so clean, park management came up with the idea of having the MEDDAC-J team remove weeds at the front of the park to provide a more attractive entrance for visitors.
“It was a very fun and humbling experience,” Schmidt said. “We are guests to this beautiful city and the country, so it felt good to give back a little.”
Schmidt said every volunteer did a great job, treating the park “like their own garden,” and that it looked so great afterward that he couldn’t help but passing by the park entrance the next day when he went for a run.
Schmidt said he hopes that by volunteering for the cleanup, he and his team contributed to building trust and friendship between the U.S. Army and Zama City.
“By taking time to work in the soil together, we created a partnership that will hopefully continue long after we move back to the States,” Schmidt said.
Several members of the group have already asked Schmidt when the next volunteer opportunity will be, Schmidt said, so he has begun looking for future opportunities.
Staff Sgt. Chance Johnson, assigned to MEDDAC-J, said he was excited to volunteer because he wanted to be able to “give back and do something to better the local community.” Johnson said he will definitely participate in the next volunteer opportunity.
“I feel very fulfilled to have been able to help out,” Johnson said. “I believe we made the relationship between Zama city and MEDDAC-J stronger.”
Kunio Iwamoto, curator for Zama Yatoyama Park, said he sees Camp Zama community members use the park often. But the April 22 event was the first time the installation reached out to him to ask about the opportunity to volunteer.
“We were very surprised and happy at the same time when they reached out to us,” Iwamoto said.
The cleanup event was a great opportunity for local citizens to see Camp Zama community members working together with their neighboring city.
“They did a great job and were very helpful to make the park entrance look cleaner,” Iwamoto said.
Echoing the feedback Schmidt received, Iwamoto said some of the participants already expressed interest to him to volunteer again. Iwamoto said he is excited to have them back in the near future.
“Since we live very close to each other in the community, today can be the start for both of us to continuously interact with each other more and build on that friendship,” Iwamoto said.