HAMAHIGA ISLAND, OKINAWA, Japan --
HAMAHIGA ISLAND, OKINAWA, Japan – Marines with 3rd Marine Division and locals attend a memorial service for Ryoji Morine, a local care taker, here, June 23, 2018.
For 50 years, Mr. Morine cleared and maintained a small-memorial site dedicated to Col. Kermit H. Shelly and his Marines of the 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group (formerly 3rd Marine Logistics Group).
Shelly was the battalion commander from March 1967 to June 1968. While in command, he was influential in the installation of most infrastructure on Hamahiga Island.
Marines helped build schools, houses, a church, and constructed the island’s water reservoir system, which is still in use to this day. The water reservoir provides irrigation for the island’s agriculture.
Due to the advancements made by Shelly’s Marines, the locals built a monument for him in 1968. The stone monument holds a copper plate with an eagle, globe, and anchor in the center and two vases with flowers on each side.
The monument was first placed near the school he helped build. As time passed, the school grew and eventually the monument was relocated next to a memorial to all the locals from Hamahiga who lost their lives during the war.
The local community holds an annual memorial service for all those who lost their lives during the Battle of Okinawa and Shelly because of the impact they had on the community and to celebrate their lives.
Morine cleaned and maintained the site for 50 years before passing away in April 2018, at age 61.
“We gather as a community to pay our respects to Morine-san and Col Shelly’s Marines,” said Sgt. Maj. Charles Weeks, Battalion Sergeant Major, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. “The commitment of Morine-san to maintain the memorial was the hallmark of friendship between the U.S. Marines and local Okinawans.”
In memory of Ryoji Morine, his memorial is placed beside both the engineer and local monument on the island.
As Morine said in 2014, “What this island enjoys today greatly owes to what [Shelly] and the U.S. military did for us back then.”