Japan Self-Defense Force troops donate money for Katrina aid
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Troops from Iruma, a Japan Air Self-Defense Force base in nearby Saitama prefecture, have donated almost $3,800 in cash to benefit Hurricane Katrina victims.
Col. Osamu Tomita, Iramu’s vice commander, made the presentation to Yokota’s commander, Col. Scott Goodwin, and Jane Dustman, manager of the American Red Cross’s Asian-Pacific hub, during a brief ceremony Tuesday at the 374th Airlift Wing headquarters building.
“The donations we’ve received from all of our friends makes a great difference,” Dustman said. “So many families were displaced. … This will be used to help fund assistance to [them]. It’s saving lives by helping others.
“The people of Iruma gave from their hearts to help people they don’t even know. They’ve given to assist victims in the United States. It’s greatly appreciated.”
Goodwin, 374th Airlift Wing commander, said the storm that ripped into the Gulf Coast region in late August had a “personal impact” on Yokota community members, with many wondering about the fate of family and friends in Katrina’s aftermath.
“It fills my heart with joy to know we have such good friends here who are more than willing to come to the aid of the American people,” he said. “This is just another example of the great relationship between our two nations. We’re willing to help each other in times of disaster. That only strengthens the alliance we have together.
“On behalf of the American people, I personally thank them for their generous donation to assist and help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.”
The money, raised solely from personal contributions at Iruma, will be exchanged for dollars at Yokota’s Community Bank and go into the Red Cross disaster-relief fund, Dustman said. The organization is helping storm victims get re-established through donations such as food, clothing and some household furnishings.
Tomita said Iruma personnel saw the dire situation on television and decided to act.
“Our commander (Maj. Gen. Mitsumasa Ishii) said it’s really a big tragedy,” Tomita said through a translator. “We have a good relationship with Yokota Air Base. … I personally heard that their friends and relatives all suffered. We felt we needed to do something to help those victims. Then, we asked everyone for help.”
According to Dustman, September is American Red Cross Preparedness Month.
“If nothing else, this has taught us we have to learn to be ready for anything,” she said.