SENDAI, Japan, April 8, 2011 — Marine Corps Cpl. Tori K. Tadehara was a passenger in the back of a 7‑ton cargo truck headed back to temporary billeting where he would be able to catch a few hours of sleep before hitting the road again.
The night’s temperature was a chilly 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The dark was broken only by the glow of the trucks’ headlights in the convoy. The headlight beams seeped through the holes and cracks in the canvas that served as the only barrier between the Marines and the cold night air.
Tadehara, a heavy equipment mechanic, was returning to his base here after dropping off kerosene to Japanese citizens living in areas hardest hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
“Kerosene is how they heat their homes, it’s how they stay warm at night,” said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Eric Harley, a platoon commander with Task Force Fuji. Tadehara said the cold weather here was nothing new to him, but mainland Japan’s moist air was a reminder for him of how far away from home he was.
“I grew up in Salt Lake City, so I’m used to the cold,” Tadehara said. “There is more moisture in the air here though; it chills the air a lot more than the dry cold.” The convoy was passing through villages completely destroyed by the March 11 disaster. Recipients of the kerosene supplies the convoy carried had lost everything and were living in shelters set up by the Japanese government.
“Some of the villages had nothing left but the foundations of houses,” Harley said. “When we got into those villages, we’d be driving along, and there’d be a 40-foot yacht in the middle of the road. It was startling.”
The importance of the Marines’ disaster-relief work in Japan becomes vividly apparent, Tadehara said, when the convoy stops and delivers its supplies of fuel. “When I got to go out and see the end result and contribute to the Japanese civilians –- see the little kids smile -– it was all worth it,” he said. Tadehara said he feels lucky to be one of the few who can go out and help the victims.
“A lot of people really want to go and help. I’ve talked to one of my Japanese friends, a firefighter on Camp Fuji, and he was really passionate about trying to come with us,” Tadehara said. “So, I feel very fortunate to be out here.”
Tadehara said friends in the United States also have expressed their desire to come to Japan and help out. “I’ve talked to my judo sensei that is back in the states, and he really wanted to come here and help,” Tadehara said. “He wants everyone to know that the Japanese will pull through, that they are strong.”
Serving in the Marine Corps, Tadehara said he had the training and the opportunity to go into the heart of the disaster area and help those who needed it most. “When I joined, I had the intent of serving my country honorably. I never knew I was going to be in Japan helping out the Japanese people and being an ambassador, but I’m very proud that I am,” he said.
As the convoy returns to the Japanese military base providing temporary lodging for the Marines, Tadehara said he is grateful for the warmth and the opportunity to get a few hours of sleep.
But he said he’s also looking forward to getting back on the road to deliver supplies the next day.
“I just want to get my feet warm and my body rested, so I can hit it full speed tomorrow,” Tadehara said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)