Dec. 23, 2015 --
When I was driving to Camp Hansen in the afternoon of 23 December, I came across a Marine and two Corpsmen who were trying to help an old man along the busy roadside. The older gentlemen, who had apparently been riding a bicycle, was lying down against the fence as traffic roared by in the Town of Kin, in northern Okinawa.
At first, I thought it might have been an unfortunate traffic accident between the local gentleman and the U.S. personnel members. Having the privilege to work with the Marine Corps as one of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Liaison Officers assigned to III Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Courtney, I pulled my government vehicle over near the scene and began to analyze the situation.
According to the Marine on the scene, who was later discovered to be Sgt. Jacob Baumann, a member of the Fire Support Coordination Platoon of 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, located at Camp Hansen. Sgt. Baumann told me he was driving from Camp Hansen south and noticed that the older gentleman was riding his “mamachari” (a commonly used bicycle in Japan to run errands, mostly be mothers, hence the prefix, “mama”) unsteadily. Several cars were trying to avoid hitting him, and as the sergeant was about to pass the old man, he suddenly fell off his bicycle.
Sgt. Baumann immediately stopped his car to rescue the man. He moved him and the bicycle to a safe area, out of the roadway. Unfortunately, the man was barely breathing. Sgt. Baumann noticed the gentleman’s chest was barely rising, had a weak heartbeat, and so he give him a few chest compressions and the man fortunately came to.
By this time, some Corpsmen, who were coming in the opposite direction to go to Camp Hansen, had stopped to help and were checking the condition of the older gentlemen. I jumped in to help, explaining I was a liaison officer for the GSDF. It appeared he had been drinking heavily—there was a strong smell of alcohol, and an empty bottle of Awamori (the locally distilled wine) on his person.
Sgt. Baumann had already called the Kin Emergency Center, but because the operator did not speak English I was asked to get on the line and interpret. I explained the situation and status of the man, everyone’s efforts to assist, and requested that an ambulance and police officer be dispatched to the scene.
Finally, the police and ambulance showed up, as did a traffic accident investigation team. The older gentlemen, either because of the fright or his degree of intoxication, still could not speak well enough but his status was stable, and he was found to be without injury
In addition to everything the Marine and Corpsmen did to rescue and help the older gentlemen, I was so impressed and inspired to see the Marine trying to give him water and some of his own lunch box as he asked for something to eat and drink.
Although near-daily episodes like this when U.S. service members aid local citizens go unreported in the local media, these actions are truly beautiful, sincere, and heartwarming, and further emphasize the motto, “No Better Friend.”
The Marines (and Corpsmen) are awesome, and I am grateful to them. I am happy I was there to help, and especially happy to have been there to witness such an interaction.
Iwasaki is a sergeant major in the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, and serves as the JGSDF LNO to III MEF.