Story and photo by Sky M. Laron,
NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Director of Corporate Communications
YOKOSUKA, Japan – Police officers, local city officials, traffic safety personnel and NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Yokosuka Sailors joined together Dec. 17 in a city park adjacent to the Yokosuka Police Station to educate children about traffic safety.
The event is co-sponsored by the Japanese Police Service (JPS) and the Yokosuka Drivers Safety Administrators Association, which brings attention to the importance of traffic safety. Part of the awareness campaign brings in donations for the orphans left behind as the result of fatality related auto accidents.
“This is our 31st year holding this ceremony,” said Koike Katsuhiko, President of the Yokosuka Drivers Safety Administrators Association. “It is our hope and my wish that we do not have any more fatalities and through awareness we can sharply bring down the numbers of auto accidents.”
Katsuhiko expressed his gratitude for U.S. Navy involvement in the event and emphasized how he desired continued collaboration.
“This is not just the city of Yokosuka or just the Navy base, we are not separate,” said Katsuhiko. “We are an entire community and no barriers exist with traffic safety.”
Taking part in the event meant a great deal for many of the participants.
“I take this very near and dear to my heart,” said Michael Kretschmer, Traffic Safety Officer for Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka. “The children that are affected by traffic accidents and the children who are orphaned mean a great deal to me, so it is the least I can do to help bring awareness to traffic safety, awareness about these kids and get people to think about how they can be safe on the road.”
Kretschmer added that many drivers need to simply calm down and take a moment when operating their motor vehicles.
“Stay focused on the task at hand, exercise patience and you will not have an issue on the road,” said Kretschmer.
Talking to the children early and often was stressed by the educators.
“It’s important to put it in their minds early and not to wait until they are an adult before introducing traffic safety,” said Nobuko Matsui, a senior police officer with the Yokosuka Police Station’s Traffic Division. “These kids also live close to the U.S. Navy Base community, so this is a great opportunity for them to be involved and start building better relationships so that they can begin to feel more natural and comfortable around their American neighbors.”
Some of those neighbors were NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Sailors, who also share a commitment for community involvement.
“It is important to me to volunteer in my community because even though I did not grow up here I feel this is my home and I like to give back to my community in any way possible,” said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Elijah Burgos, Logistics Support Representative for NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka’s Operations Department. “
Burgos added that he felt it was a privilege to help educate young people, especially concerning safety.
“Small children are ‘sponges’ if you install what seems like a small practice into their minds now, as they grow older, things such as seat belts and pedestrian awareness becomes second nature to them,” said Burgos.
“Traffic safety is important to me because I can name several stories from friends and family where simple things like a seat belt, foul weather distance and even awareness saved lives,” said Burgos adding, “I have been blessed to not personally experience a severe accident but I also believe that’s in part to my safety training.”
More than 50 kindergarten children who attended the event were also able to take part in some holiday events to include Japanese mochi rice pounding, which celebrates the New Year as well as a visit from Santa Claus, who stressed the importance of using seat belts.
“Today we hope and wish for these children’s traffic safety and overall protection,” said Katsuhiko.