Okinawa Legion post honored for community efforts

An American Legion post based in Okinawa recently was one of three organizations honored for their community service by the Japanese city of Naha.

Wayne E. Marchand Post 28 was honored for its contributions in beautifying Naha over the past year. Once a month, Post 28’s members clean Tomari International Cemetery, a registered cultural asset.

Keiko Taira, deputy chief of the Citizen’s Affairs Department of Naha City Office, told Stars and Stripes that the award presented to Post 28 typically goes to schools and neighborhood associations, and rarely is presented to an American organization.

“With true volunteer spirit, they have contributed to the beautification of the cemetery,” Taira told Stars and Stripes. “Their enthusiasm to make the cemetery a better place is very much appreciated.”

Tomari International Cemetery contains the remains of foreigners who died on or around Okinawa, from Chinese mariners who perished at sea in the 1700s to Americans who died attending Commodore Matthew Perry’s visits to the island in the 1850s.

Post 28 has been involved in cleaning the cemetery since 2008, providing both lawn and enclosure wall maintenance. More than 1,000 hours of work is performed annually at the cemetery by Post 28, which teams up with local Boy Scouts and U.S. military personnel

Post 28 was chartered in 1946 and is named for a former member and Army staff sergeant killed in 1962 during the Vietnam War. Marchand was one of the first Americans killed in the war.

The post also hosts an annual AmerAsian School Christmas party for local students and also maintains a memorial honoring famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle on the land where Pyle was killed in le Shima, Okinawa. The post leases the land and every year conducts a ceremony honoring Pyle, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his World War II coverage.