By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Eduardo T. Otero, USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan – Sailors aboard the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), visited the Shunko Gakuen Orphanage in Yokosuka, Feb. 6.
Twenty-six Sailors volunteered for the visit and spent time interacting with children at the orphanage as part of the latest in a long history of partnership events between the Navy and the facility.
“When Sailors come to spend time with the kids, it’s the most beneficial and most appreciated thing for them,” said Shuichi Koyama, deputy director of the orphanage. “They love it. Playing with the kids and spending time with them means more to them than something like a present would.”
According to Koyama, the orphanage supports 69 children between the ages of 2 and 18. Some of the children are victims of child abuse, have sick parents who cannot properly care for them, or don’t know their parents’ whereabouts. Visits from the Navy are greatly appreciated by the orphanage staff, as they value the individual interaction with each of the children that Sailors provide.
“The orphanage is short-staffed, so they cannot play with each of the kids,” said Koyama. “The Sailors come to our facility and are able to pay attention to each of them. We enjoy seeing the kids smiling and playing with you guys.”
The children are not the only ones who enjoy these visits.
“It gives me an opportunity to play with the kids and learn a little bit more about the culture and people,” said Logistics Specialist 3rd Class William Jones. “The kids are instantly open and engaging. They pretty much take you in as one of their own. It’s a really good, warm feeling, and it’s nice to be able to enjoy the simple things in life.”
Sailors took part in a variety of activities with the children, including video games, sports and spending quality time together.
“I can’t honestly remember the last time I was able to do something like that, and it feels good. It takes me back,” said Jones.
Lt. Cole Yoos, a chaplain aboard Ronald Reagan and event coordinator, explained how the visit to the Shunko Gakuen Orphanage also helps maintain the good relationship that the people of the U.S. and Japan have developed over the years.
“Our partnership with the people of Japan is absolutely vital,” said Yoos. “Not only for the strategic aspects of it in the region, but also culturally. They get to see who we are as Americans and what we’re like, and we get to understand their culture and what they’re like as Japanese. These events are just another opportunity for our country and our Navy to continue to build and foster that good relationship with the Japanese.”
Yoos talked about the future of the Navy’s partnership with the orphanage and about what will happen after Ronald Reagan returns to the U.S.
“The Navy will continue to partner with this orphanage and come here, even long after the Reagan goes back to the U.S.,” said Yoos.
He also sent a message to the Sailors who volunteered at the orphanage.
“I just want to thank all of the Sailors that donated their Saturday to come out and play with the orphans,” said Yoos. “There are a lot of competing things in our lives that ask for our time, so for them to give up their time to come out here for these children is amazing. A big thank you to all of the Sailors that came out.”