ZAMA CITY, Japan – U.S. Army in Japan personnel joined about 1,300 Japanese residents who gathered Sept. 3 for the 41st annual Sagami River cleanup event here near Camp Zama.
Soldiers, civilian employees and family members of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, the 311th Military Intelligence Bn., and Logistics Readiness Center – Honshu volunteered to help with the community cleanup in the recreation area along the river.
“This is just something we always like to do,” said Kevin Coleman, accompanied by his wife, Randi, the 311th MI first sergeant, and their twin daughters, Reyna and Kaylee. “We volunteer with the community anytime we can to give something back.”
The Coleman family said their community cleanup volunteerism had a humorous start. When their daughters were very young, just 3 or 4 years old, one launched a piece of garbage out of the window while they were driving. The parents explained to their children why that was wrong, went home and got a wagon, and returned to clean up the whole area.
Now, however, it is something the girls love to do and something they call “helping the animals.”
Zama City Mayor Mito Sato opened Sunday’s event with a speech thanking the participants and members of the Kanagawa Prefectural Waste Management Promotion Council for volunteering their free time to assist the city. The mayor explained that the Sagami River flows into the Sagami Bay, so cleanup efforts are crucial to prevent the spread of marine pollution.
“We believe it is very meaningful for us to continue this activity in order to pass on a better environment for the future,” she said.
Participants were given a safety briefing, cloth gloves and garbage bags and they quickly spread out across the area to begin cleaning.
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Master Sgt. Hideki Ohara, from Camp Zama’s 4th Engineer Group, joined three Soldiers from the 38th ADA to practice English while cleaning the area. He said he enjoys the opportunity for international engagement and greatly appreciates the partnership with the U.S. Soldiers on Camp Zama.
Sgt. Amelya Floyd said she enjoyed Ohara’s company during the event, saying it was nice to work side-by-side with the JGSDF in a non-mission event where they could get to know each other.
“Soldiers are the same no matter where you are, so we have that bond,” she said.
Capt. Alexander Derosa, assigned to the 35th CSSB, said the event was the first time he has been able to volunteer in Japan, but he hopes to do it again in the future.
“Any chance to be involved with the community and any chance to help is great,” he said.
During a closing ceremony, Zama City officials told those gathered that they collectively gathered 3.5 tons of trash, helping to beautify the area.