CAMP ZAMA, Japan (June 30, 2021) – Early Tuesday morning, a Soldier clad in his dress uniform stood at attention on the dock of the Army’s Kure Pier Six, looking out across the water.
He slowly raised his bugle and delivered taps, the mournful sound echoing across the water to honor the memory of David Earl Ricks.
It was a fitting final salute for a man who spent the last 18 years of his life working to serve the U.S. Army community in Kure, a tiny port town in rural Hiroshima.
Ricks, the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation business operations manager at Kure, passed away June 16, following a long battle with illness.
More than 50 teammates from both U.S. Army Garrison Japan’s Kure team and the 10th Support Group Ammunition Depot gathered there for a memorial service for Ricks.
Several people—including USAG Japan Command Sgt. Major Justin E. Turner, USAGJ Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Florio Pierre, and DFMWR employee and longtime friend Emmettee McNeill—traveled to Kure from Camp Zama, Japan, to participate in the service. They joined Lt. Col. Onwe Ivory, Kure Depot commander, and Carlos Esmurria, the Kure installation manager, in delivering the service.
“Sorrow fills our hearts this sad moment, a sorrow that is deep and personal,” Ivory said in his remarks. “David has been called home to rest, and our lives will be forever changed in his absence.”
Ivory urged those in attendance not to focus on sadness or tears, but instead to talk about hope and remember the good times.
“If you only met him for less than five minutes, you quickly learned David had a huge heart—that he would give you the clothing off his back if you asked,” Ivory said. “He proudly lived through selfless service, taking care of others above himself.”
Turner said that as a civilian employee, Ricks represented the heartbeat of the Garrison. He also noted that Ricks, like many of his civilian teammates, started his career in uniform. Turner said Ricks joined the U.S. Army in April 1979, and served his last day on active duty at Camp Zama as a military policeman in May 1992.
“When I learned of this terrible loss, and looked back at his career, I saw a track record of excellence as both a Soldier and civilian,” Turner said. “And that surely isn’t surprising based on everything that I’ve heard about David.”
Turner said that while in uniform, Ricks earned four Army Achievement Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, and four Good Conduct Medals, among others. As a civilian, he earned the James A. Carol Award for Management Excellence for Club Operations in Kure in 2007, an Achievement Medal for Civilian Service, and the Department of the Army Length of Service Award for 40 years of honorable service.
“But from what I’ve learned about David, I’m sure he wouldn’t ever mention his own awards,” Turner said. “He would want to celebrate his teammates’ success, and he would say that he was simply doing his job the best way he knew how by putting the customer first.”
McNeill said some of his first memories of Ricks were from when they served as military policemen together at Camp Zama in the early 1990s. McNeill said he remembered coming off long work shifts and finding Ricks in the barracks, cooking food for the junior Soldiers.
“That means a lot,” McNeill said, and it made him realize how strong a leader Ricks was.
McNeill also joked about Ricks’ one-of-a-kind, distinctive laugh—something he said nobody who ever met Ricks could forget. McNeill asked everyone to keep that laugh in mind when remembering his good friend.
“My friend David was ridiculously happy in life, so let us celebrate that life rather than weeping over his death,” McNeill said.
Esmurria said that when he and his wife, Yolanda, joined the Kure team, they developed an instant connection with Ricks.
“As I spent more time with Dave, it became evident that he loved serving customers, he loved leading and caring for his team, and that he was committed to serving others,” Esmurria said. “He treated everyone like an extended family member and shared his love of family with everyone—it was so inspiring.”
During a phone call from Tennessee in the days leading up to the memorial service, Ricks’ brother, George, said he wanted to tell everyone a bit about David.
“I just want people to know that he was real,” George said. “He was a people person and he loved everyone.”
George said that David was famous in the family for his giving nature, saying that David was the first to try to help anyone in need.
“Our hearts our heavy, but we were blessed to have Dave as a family member,” George said.
George said his brother also spoke often of the love of his adopted country of Japan, and of his friends and teammates at Kure. He thanked the leadership team—especially DFMWR Director Rick Bosch and Chaplain Pierre—for helping his family through the tough loss.
Pierre said he had the privilege of visiting Ricks with Esmurria at the hospital in Hiroshima, and said he was able to share the hope “that even if this life is but a shadow, there is something greater to come.”
“You are a small community here at Kure,” Pierre said. “You must rely on each other to encourage, to love and to cherish during these tough days as we grieve the passing of our brother, Dave Ricks. Gone from this world, but not from our hearts. You will be missed.”