Okinawan daughter connects with father, military

December 28, 2017

With an Okinawan breeze blowing through her hair, Chikako McMasters watched as a formation of Marines stood in front of 3rd Marine Division’s staff noncommissioned officer barracks on Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan. Col. Giles R. Boyce, the commanding officer for Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, renamed the barracks “Dorris Hall” after Chikako’s father, a Navy Cross recipient during the Vietnam War. 

Chikako spent her entire life wondering who her father was, and on Dec. 22, 2017, as Boyce spoke about her father’s accomplishments in the Marine Corps, she finally found the connection she was looking for.

“I always wondered who my father was,” said Chikako. “Of course, I wanted to learn for the linage and the history because I didn’t know where he was from, but it was the background I wanted to know.”

Although Chikako grew up with little information about her father, she remembers meeting him once while he was on his way to Vietnam.

Staff Sgt. Claude H. Dorris went looking for Chikako’s mother when he visited Okinawa. Chikako’s grandmother answered the door and as she explained where her daughter was, Dorris became distracted by a little girl who hid in the background.

To his surprise, this little girl was Chikako, his five-year-old daughter; She was shy and hid behind her grandmother after Dorris tried to hold her. 

The only thing Chikako knew of Dorris was the small memory they shared at her grandmother’s house and a picture of him which she had lost while moving.

After his short visit, Dorris left for Vietnam where he gave his life for his country.

Fifty years later, Chikako learned of her father’s heroic actions that day. Dorris unhesitatingly exposed himself to ensure his Marines would have enough time to get to their positions. Despite his position in the firefight, Dorris saw an injured Vietnamese boy and managed to perform first aid on him. Shortly after, Dorris was killed by an enemy rocket round. 

Because of this, he was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

“I didn’t know [the barracks renaming ceremony] was going to be a special event,” said Chikako. “I didn’t expect any of it. Who would imagine I would find something like this after 50 years? It was very special.”

Although Chikako lived near Camp Pendleton, California, for 36 years, she had a hard time accepting the military tradition. However, after finding that her biological father was a Marine, she said she felt an immediate connection.

“Now I’m just so honored to be my father’s daughter,” said Chikako. “I feel like I want to celebrate and honor him as his daughter. It has more meaning to me. I feel like I am part of the military family.”