Okinawa torch run kicks off Special Olympics countdown
June 13, 2005
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — About 100 military police from all four services ran to Kadena Air Base and lit a ceremonial torch as part of the international Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics on Saturday morning.
The run was a prelude to what likely will be the largest Okinawa Special Olympics ever, with 880 athletes and 1,500 volunteers gathering at Kadena Air Base on Saturday.
The law enforcement torch run began in 1981 when Wichita, Kan., officers wanted to raise funds and awareness for the Special Olympics. Since then, the event has spread worldwide.
The run gets people thinking about the event and motivates servicemembers, said Marine Cpl. Kyle Dubay, who works at the Camp Hansen Brig.
“You’re out there to get people who might regularly help, to help even more than they already do,” he said.
The Army runners started out from Torii Station and the Marines ran from Camp Foster; the Navy arrived from Camp Shields, while the Air Force runners started from Kadena’s Gates 1 and 2. Everyone came together around 8 a.m. at Kadena’s Building 705, located near the center of the base opposite the fire station.
From Building 705, the servicemembers ran in formation to the Risner Gym parking lot and stood at attention while Marine Pfc. Irma Rosales presented the lit torch.
Participating in this year’s torch run and volunteering for Saturday’s Olympics is personal for some military police officers.
While growing up on the Eastern Shore in Ridgely, Md., Airman 1st Class Issael Smith spent his free time volunteering with his aunt, who worked at an agency helping the mentally handicapped.
Smith said he has volunteered for Special Olympics events ever since he was in high school.
“I also have a cousin who has a handicap, and I’ve been growing up around her all of my life,” he said.
Others got hooked on helping Special Olympics at previous duty stations. Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Otis first got involved with the games while stationed in San Diego, where he noticed how much happier both athletes and volunteers felt afterward.
“Everybody walked away with an almost Disneyesque-type feeling,” Otis said.
Participation in the torch run and the games positively impacts local perception of U.S. forces, Otis added.
“It’s good to show Okinawa that we care about being here, other than just being in the military,” he said.