U.S. Navy base residents donate funds for earthquake relief
November 11, 2004
TOKYO — U.S. Navy base residents donated nearly $40,000 to earthquake-stricken Niigata Prefecture during a small ceremony Tuesday morning in Tokyo.
Capt. King Dietrich, commander of Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, presented $24,221.55 — gathered during Yokosuka church services — to Hideo Minami, director of Niigata’s Prefecture Office in Tokyo. Base officials said an additional $10,000 from Atsugi Naval Air Facility, $909.85 from Diego Garcia and $4,505.92 from Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, would be coming in the near future.
Capt. Mark S. Welch, Defense and Naval Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, and Lt. Cmdr. Phil Pelikan, Yokosuka’s deputy command chaplain, accompanied Dietrich.
Dietrich told Minami, through a translator, that base chaplains came up with the idea of “a special donation to assist with the recovery” in the prefecture.
Niigata was rocked Oct. 23 by a 6.8-magnitude earthquake, and several strong aftershocks have followed. Dozens of people were killed and more than 2,000 injured. More than 18,000 people are still homeless and officials are scrambling to beat the winter snow.
“It’s not a great amount of money but hopefully it will help you in providing assistance to your citizens,” Dietrich said.
Minami thanked Dietrich for the donation, saying the “money you gave us today will help … a good cause.”
Minami also told the visiting Americans that while a small portion of the prefecture was heavily damaged in the quakes, other areas are still hoping for a strong tourist season — especially on the ski slopes.
Dietrich said he would be contributing to Niigata’s economy when he takes a Yokosuka base ski tour toward the end of December.
“We’re waiting for you,” Minami said in English.
Pelikan told Minami the base community will continue to pray for prefecture’s residents.
“Part of our religious services is to be giving,” Pelikan told Stars and Stripes. “Everyone just reached a little deeper because of the tragedy. We’re glad to be giving.”
Minami said the donation from base residents was a surprise.
“I’m really happy and grateful,” he told Stripes. He said the act helped show him that compassion doesn’t have borders.
Minami said Niigata officials would form a committee to decide how to use the donations.
U.S. Ambassador Howard Baker provided Japan $50,000 for disaster assistance on Oct. 25. On Nov. 5, an embassy release stated, “the United States Government will provide an additional $100,000 to assist the people of Niigata Prefecture affected by the recent series of earthquakes.” Those funds were to be used for logistics support to aid in the transportation of emergency relief items to the stricken area.
Other U.S. bases in Japan, including Yokota Air Base and Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, also are offering assistance through donations.