Face of Defense: Marine Aids Japan Relief Effort

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)

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