CNFJ calls for ‘period of reflection’ after fatal beating
January 8, 2006
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Flowers lie in the first floor stairwell of the Imamura Building, where 56-year-old Yoshie Sato was fatally beaten last Tuesday.
Americans from Yokosuka Naval Base took part in the Japanese custom of showing sympathy and apology on Friday.
A USS Kitty Hawk sailor is in custody as a suspect in Sato’s death.
It’s not “business as usual” around U.S. naval bases in Japan: U.S. 7th Fleet and Commander, Naval Forces Japan ordered a “period of reflection” for all their Status of Forces Agreement personnel in Japan starting last Thursday and running through Monday morning.
Additionally, a restriction was set barring members of the Yokosuka Naval Base and Naval Air Facility Atsugi communities from being in areas around those bases from midnight to 5 a.m. during the reflection period. Base clubs will close early and Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka and the chain of command will enforce the policy.
The liberty restriction is just a small part of the period of reflection, said CNFJ spokesman Cmdr. John Wallach.
“It’s an opportunity for all of us to collectively demonstrate sympathy for this tragic loss of life. We feel that this is very appropriate and that it is absolutely the right thing to do given the severity of the incident that occurred,” Wallach said.
“Whether you wear a uniform, teach in a DODDS school or bag groceries on base, everyone here under the auspices of the Department of Defense is an ambassador.”
Abiding by the curfew is a tangible gesture of respect to the Japanese community, said DOD civilian Peggye Wilson.
“I think we should do something to show them how truly sorry we are that this happened,” Wilson said.
But not everyone agrees a curfew is the answer.
Curfews punish everyone, and most Navy sailors are mature enough to behave themselves, said Seaman Alison Batalion.
“If we’re old enough to join the military, we’re old enough to stay out past midnight,” she said.
In Sasebo, naval base commander Capt. Tilghman D. Payne used the period of reflection to visit Sasebo City Deputy Mayor Nichiro Naguchi on Friday and to meet with sailors Thursday to discuss the seriousness of the incident.
“Words cannot describe how deeply saddened we all are by this horrible crime. Our hearts go out to the citizens of Yokosuka, including our Navy family there,” Payne said.
Navy leadership throughout Japan will be looking sailors “in the eye” this weekend and asking them to consider their role in the Japanese-American alliance, Wallach said.
“Behavior is a strategic issue that can impact our alliance,” Wallach said. “Just because the period of reflection ends on Monday at 7 a.m. doesn’t mean we should stop thinking about that.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Vivian Perry said that everyone she spoke to understands the importance of mourning with the Japanese community.
“This is an awful thing to happen that reflects badly on everyone,” Perry said.
Her husband, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shawn Perry, agrees. But he said he hopes the liberty restriction is temporary, as he has served in areas under lockdown before, he said.
“We’re going to see changes for a long time to come,” Perry predicted. “We might be just scratching the surface.”
Greg Tyler contributed to this report.