Okinawa service members, civilians begin period of unity, mourning

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BUTLER, Okinawa – The Okinawa area coordinator and Commanding General III Marine Expeditionary Force, Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson announced the start of a 30-day period of unity and mourning at a press conference today at 9:00 a.m. on Camp Foster, Okinawa. Nicholson’s statement is as follows: 

“I am gathered here today with our United States Consul General, Mr. Joel Ehrendreich, and the senior leaders from the Air Force, Navy, Army, Marine Corps and United States civilian organizations on Okinawa.

I want you to know that my decision to meet with the media today is based upon my desire to speak directly to the people of Okinawa. I plan to speak from the heart. 

I plan to provide more access to the media in the future because if we as the leaders of the American community are not engaged and speaking with the media, we are missing an opportunity to engage and speak with the people of Okinawa.  

I want to start by saying that there are no words in the English language that can adequately convey our level of shock, pain and grief at the loss of life of this innocent victim. 

The allegations made against Mr. Shinzato are stunning and hurtful to anyone who values human life and dignity. 

This was not simply an attack on an Okinawan woman by an American civilian, this was an attack on all that we hold dear as human beings.

This was an attack on human dignity and decency. This is a crime against the very fabric of what it means to be human.

I want you to know that there are not two sides to this issue. There is not an Okinawan and an American way to view this horrific crime. There is only one view, and that is that we are all repulsed, angry and grieving together. 

Okinawa is not just a duty station for me. It is not simply an assignment for our military and civilian personnel. It is my home. It is our home. 

We are part of this community. We live in your towns and villages. We visit you in your homes, and you visit in ours. We shop in your stores, and we dine in your restaurants. Our children play sports and attend scouts, karate and dance classes together. We will grieve and mourn together as well. 

It is not just the Okinawan people who are grieving and hurt. Our American community of fifty-thousand men, women and children are also grieving and are deeply hurt by the alleged incomprehensible actions of this American citizen.

Our collective prayers and thoughts are and will remain with the family of the innocent victim. 

We have from the very beginning, and will until its conclusion work closely with the Okinawa Police Department in supporting every aspect of this investigation. 

Mr. Shinzato is in, and will remain in, Japanese custody throughout this process in accordance with our bilateral Status of Forces Agreement. 

We remain in a state of mourning and deep pain for the innocent victim. We are outraged by this senseless act of violence, and stand with the people of Okinawa during this time of anguish. We are all hurting together as residents of this great island. 

Effective May 27, 2016, all United States SOFA personnel will begin a thirty day period of unity and mourning. This order will include modified liberty regulations for our American military community. 

This period of unity and mourning will include the postponement of all festivals, celebrations and concerts on our bases and stations.

The annual Futenma festival, and many other planned events, will be moved to later in the summer out of respect and consideration for the period of mourning that all of us, both Okinawans and Americans living in Okinawa, will be observing. 

The alliance between the United States and Japan is a critical foundation for the security of both of our countries. That alliance has also helped to fortify peace and security throughout the region.

My request to the people of Okinawa is simple; please do not allow this terrible act of violence to drive a wedge between our two communities. 

We are at our best when we work together in crisis. We are at our best when we are unified in a common cause. We are at our best when we communicate openly, and we will be at our best as we grieve together over this senseless and tragic event.”

Nicholson was joined by military leadership from all U.S. services currently stationed on Okinawa.

00:12 21 May , 2024