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, 2019.
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).
“This ceremony is a part of Okinawan Memorial Day”, said Lt. Col. Stephan P. Karabin II, Commanding Officer Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. “It is also to honor the residents that passed away during World War II. This maintains our legacy, it is important to pay tribute to those men and women who died.”
Hama Park has two shrines, one dedicated for those lost during the Battle of Okinawa and one for Shelly. Shelly was the commanding officer of 3rd Force Service Support Regiment during the 60’s, which today is called the 3rd Marine Logistics Group. While in command, he was influential in the installation of most infrastructure on Hamahiga Island. He helped build schools, houses, a church, and constructed the island’s water reservoir system, which are still in use to this day.
The memorial site was preserved for 50 years by Okinawan local Ryoji Morine, who passed away April 2018 at the age of 61.
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 – the Marine Corps’ official emblem – in the center, flanked by 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 that stands in honor of the Hamahiga locals who lost their lives during the Battle of Okinawa.
“What this island enjoys today greatly owes to what [Shelly] and the U.S. military did for us back then,” said Morine in 2014.
The monuments are maintained by locals within the surrounding areas of Hamahiga island. This year will be the 51st year locals and Marines pay tribute at the Hamahiga shrines on Okinawa Memorial Day.