YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- During a ceremony held Nov. 29 the Japan-America Navy Friendship Association (JANAFA) honored U. S. and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Sailors who made a positive impact on U.S.-Japan relations and the local community throughout the past year.
JANAFA, a prestigious Japanese military-civilian group, promotes friendship and understanding between the JMSDF and U.S. Navy through a variety of professional and social functions.
JANAFA President, retired JMSDF Adm. Eiji Yoshikawa began the ceremony with opening remarks expressing his immense gratitude toward the U.S. Navy and JMSDF.
"As the president of JANAFA, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation for your continuing support and cooperation. I'd also like to express my special thanks to the members of both the U.S. Navy and JMSDF who are contributing greatly, day and night, not only to the peace and stability of Japan but, the Asian Pacific region, and the world," said Yoshikawa.
During the ceremony, a total of eight Sailors, four from the JMSDF and four from the U.S. Navy, were awarded with plaques and certificates for their volunteer duties and efforts toward promoting friendship between the two navies.
From JMSDF, Sailors such as Master Chief Petty Officer (MCPO) Hideo Takahashi, assigned to JMSDF Headquarters, devoted a great deal of time to many bi-lateral events, which helped to promote friendship and mutual understanding between the U.S. Navy and JMSDF. This was also the case for each of the U.S. recipients, such as Chief Master-at-Arms Robert C. Szerlag, assigned to Commander Fleet Activity Sasebo, for his years of community involvement and support of a local homeless support center. He also received recognition for coordinating many bilateral events in the Kyushu area.
"The JANAFA members sincerely hope that junior active duty members of both navies will continue to put forth efforts to strengthen the solid US-Japan alliance that has been built by the senior military members," said Yoshikawa.
Szerlag says he didn't expect any type of recognition. For him, his actions reflect what every Sailor should be doing.
"I was completely surprised by being honored with such a significant award," said Szerlag. "Having been recognized by the JANAFA association certainly reemphasizes the strong relationship between our two Navies. Community service is always self rewarding. Completing bilateral events with JMSDF and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force only strengthens our civilian community support efforts, while developing what I'm sure will be long lasting friendships," said Szerlag.
Quartermaster 2nd Class Her Lee, assigned to Commander Naval Air Facility Atsugi also received recognition for his devoted time and community involvement in an English substitute teacher program and volunteer work at the Misono Orphanage.
"I never thought in my naval career that I would receive such an award," said Lee. "I have enjoyed every moment of it knowing that my efforts are changing someone's life and the community. It's so important to do as much as you can to help out with your local area and expand outwards. This really shows the true value of getting out and helping to make an impact in someone's life."
After the official ceremony, the awardees, distinguished guest and regional flag officers were treated to a specially prepared banquet as they listened to the closing toast given by JMSDF Commander in Chief, Vice Adm. Yasushi Matsushita.
"I'm so pleased to say that the bonds between all of the junior and senior members of our two navies as-well-as the members of JANAFA are so strong now. Here's to the continued success of JANAFA, the strengthening of bonds between the United States of America and Japan and, to your happiness and health. Kanpai!"
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