YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- More than 100 Yokosuka area Sailors from 12 separate commands volunteered to clean the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery Nov. 8 as part of a community relations (COMREL) cleanup project.
The Sailors, assigned to U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) and 11 forward deployed naval forces commands, cleared overgrown plants, leaves and rubbish that covered the tombstones throughout the cemetery.
“It was great to see the high turnout of volunteers this morning,” said Master Chief Master-at-Arms David Aguilera, CFAY Negishi and Ikego detachment command liaison. “It was a record high.”
Aguilera said the cemetery cleanup was a way to honor the veterans who served our country while giving back to the community.
“It is important to take time out of our busy schedules to give back to the community, especially the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery,” said Aguilera. “There are U.S. service members laid to rest at this cemetery who died while in the performance of duty in Asia-with Veteran's Day coming up, it is important to honor and remember our veterans who served our country by cleaning up the memorials and graves.”
Sailors who participated in the COMREL said they felt it was great to understand the history of the site while supporting the local community.
“It’s important that we came together as ambassadors of the U.S. Navy to support the local community,” said Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Maryann Conley, assigned to CFAY Chapel of Hope. “I learned [about] the long-standing relations between Japan and the rest of the world.”
Participants also remarked that volunteering at the cemetery was a rewarding experience.
“Today was an amazing and solemn experience,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Michelle Marcial, a security operations leading petty officer assigned to CFAY. “It feels great to be able to go out and bring a sense of betterment not only to our nation’s but other [nations] past heroes.”
The cemetery began in 1854 after the death of a 24-year old U.S. Marine on one of Commodore Matthew Perry’s ships. Perry, who played a leading role in the opening of Japan to the West, had asked for a piece of land to bury the Marine. Following negotiations, the government offered Perry land within the Zotokuin temple in Yokohama village with a view overlooking the sea.
The cemetery covers more than four acres and consists of approximately 5,000 names and about 3,000 tombstones marking the resting place of foreigners from 41 nations.
In addition to CFAY, the forward deployed naval forces commands in Yokosuka were represented by Sailors assigned to Commander Naval Surface Group Western Pacific, Information Warfare Training Site Yokosuka, Defense Logistics Agency Yokosuka, Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Navy Data Center, Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Far East, Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center, USS Antietam (CG 54), USS Barry (DDG 52), USS Milius (DDG 69), USS Mustin (DDG 89) and USS Shiloh (CG 67).
For more news from Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, visit www.navy.mil/local/cfay/.