YOKOHAMA, Japan (NNS) -- Sailors from Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY), USS Milius (DDG 69), USS Benfold (DDG 65), U.S. Naval Computer and Communications Station Far East (NAVCOMTELSTAFE), and Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Command Navy Data Center (COMSUBPAC NDC) participated in a clean-up of the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery known as gaikokujin-bochi, or foreigner’s cemetery, May 23 in the Yamate “High Bluff” area of Yokohama.
The bi-annual community relations (COMREL) clean-up helps preserve, enhance and beautify the cemetery which was founded in 1854 during the signing of the Kanagawa Treaty. The treaty was signed when Commodore Matthew Perry, while on his second trip to Japan, asked for an area of land overlooking Yokohama to bury Robert Williams, a U.S. Marine that served on the USS Mississippi. The Mississippi was a steam frigate and one of the “black ships” that Perry sailed into the Yokohama port.
“We always get a good turnout for these events and it is important that various command Sailors take time out of their busy schedules to contribute to improving host nation relationships,” said Master Chief Master-at-Arms David Aguilera, who has assisted with multiple visits to the cemetery since 2015. “Giving back to the community, while honoring those who came before us on this Memorial Day weekend.”
Additionally, Aguilera said he met a U.S. Army veteran at an open-base housing event 11 years prior, and that the veteran is now permanently at rest overlooking Yokohama, along with other foreigners who contributed to the history of the port city.
Many of the clean-up participants said it was overwhelming to see members from all branches of the services from around the world, in addition to the city’s forefathers, interred in this beautiful cemetery.
“This was my first COMREL, and I helped to organize the volunteers,” said USS Milius’ Gas Turbines Systems Mechanic Fireman Tatyana Johnson. “It was rewarding to see all the people participating and to later learn about all the veterans here and other people important to the area.”
The U.S. Navy’s assistance to the cemetery’s staff is gladly welcomed twice a year with coordinated clean-ups during Memorial Day and Veterans Day weekends. Some Sailors even make it a habit of returning to participate in the clean-up.
“I have done this COMREL four times and it is important, because we get to see places we don’t get to normally go to and then afterwards, we get to learn about the people who are actually buried here,” said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Alexandria White, a CFAY Sailor. “It’s a one of kind place where we have people from all over the world buried in one location.”
CFAY provides, maintains, and operates base facilities and services in support of the U.S. 7th Fleet's forward-deployed naval forces, 71 tenant commands, and more than 27,000 military and civilian personnel and their families.
For more news from Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, visit www.navy.mil/local/cfay/.