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I was born on the land of Yamato, an Okinawan word to describe the mainland Japan. As a woman of Yamato, I grew up with an enormous privilege. I never worried about a persistent form of oppression against Okinawans by Japanese government. I never felt fear of violence caused by US military personnels who are stationed in Okinawa. The violence includes land theft, crimes, murders, sexual assault and rape, noise pollution by military planes, environmental destruction that impact every aspect of life.
At young age, my parents taught me about Okinawa. They said, "命どう宝 (Nuchi-do-takara)," an Okinawan phrase for "life is a treasure." They explained to me how we, people of Yamato, have a great responsibility to stand with Okinawans to end the violence that disregards their belief of "命どう宝 (Nuchi-do-takara)." Often when they shared the horrific stories of Okinawa, my parents mentioned what my name means. "民 (mi) means people and democracy. You will grow up to be a leader who demands greater democracy and listen to people who have no voice. 穂 (ho) means rice, our staple food that nourishes who we are as Japanese people, and a symbol of co-existance with nature. Together, 民穂 (Miho) means a protector of people, culture and environment."
These teachings stuck with me, even after I immigrated to the United States. And yet, I did not take much actions to support Okinawa's peace movement until two years ago when Henoko became much urgent issue. I made three trips to Okinawa since then to be involved with direct action and to elect anti-US base government officials. Once I experienced Okinawa, there is no way for me to turn back.
WWII ended 71 years ago, but what I experienced in Okinawa was a war that never ended - an endless war against Okinawans by two powerful countries in a name of "national security." Why should the US and Japan deserve to command national security when they can't recognize the inherent dignity of Okinawans? A poll from elementary and middle schools in Higashi Village shows that 82% of students complained about the noise from the military planes including MV-22, and they are stressed with a lack of sleep and interruption while studying at school. This news deserves international attention, but it did not even make it to mainland Japan. While main islanders watched headlines of Turkey's coup and French's terrorist attack in July 2016, they heard nothing about our police sending a troop of 500 to 1,000 men to Takae to smother the last remaining handful of citizens. This would be the size of a troop sent to control a coup or terrorist attack, and we were citizens participating in a peaceful resistance.
While I joined in a sit-in with Okinawans and their supporters in Takae, I had an awaking moment of empowerment and commitment to the peace movement in Okinawa for the rest of my life. Right before the riot police removed us, I heard through a megaphone, "This is the police department. It has been two minutes since you occupied the gate. Please move immediately." One man replied, "Two minutes? What are you talking about? They have been occupying our land for 71 years! These years, we've endured. Only two minutes? Don't be a fool!" His words reminded me of how long they have resisted this injustice, and Okinawans’ commitment to continue fighting. A man who was sitting in front of me was wearing a blue shirt that stated: How to win.... Never give up until you win. This is the Okinawan spirit of Nuchi kajiri, an Okinawan word for "as long as we live." As long as I live, I will demand justice and peace, and stand in solidarity with Okinawans.
They helped me recognize my personal power and responsibility as well as my unique position: I speak both Japanese and English fluently, and call both countries home. I am connected. I know how to mobilize and organize people. I am resilient and persistent. I find oppression as an opportunity for people to unite. I became part of VFP, one of the most influential organization that I know we can make a difference for Okinawa together.
My hope is that by going to Okinawa as VFP delegation, I become part of an organized effort to end violence against Okinawans. This experience will help me establish a kinship with VFP delegates and Okinawans that will support establishing my role and niche to better serve the common goal: peaceful Okinawa without bases.
It has been 22 years since I was stationed in Okinawa as a young Lance Corporal in the Marine Corps. At the time I was very naïve and very excited to travel. I had no idea of any history of Okinawa, and did not really understand what I was supporting.
In recent years the Global Network has been working hard to support protest movements in South Korea and Okinawa as the US expands its already enormous military boot print in those places. The people who live there, and daily suffer from US bases, are courageously resisting these US bases that have nothing to do with democracy or defense. These US bases are about imperial domination.
I was very happy to be on the first VFP delegation to Okinawa and was repeatedly moved as we stood and sat with the struggling people outside Camp Schwab and other US bases on the jam-packed island that has been turned into a US land-based aircraft carrier.
It will be an honor to return with such a great group of VFP members to once again stand with the people. But we must also take home the inspiration and determination that we will witness in Okinawa and increase our resistance at home to the US military empire. On that first delegation the people kept asking us, “What are you going to do when you go home?” We can’t let those words fall on deaf ears.
My strong desire to be a part of the VFP delegation to Okinawa comes directly from my heart, which is aching, due in large part to all of the incredible destruction that is being brought on around the world as a result of the US Government’s militaristic policies.
I have found in my life, when faced with the kind of heartache that this destruction brings on, that, for me at least, the only thing that makes life tolerable, is to actively engage in efforts that help bring an end to the destruction.
I grew up loving animals, and have a special passion for the dolphins, porpoises, and whales. It was their plight, brought on by whaling and other human activities, that led me into activism back in the late 70s.
It was this same passion which led me to co-found Citizens Opposing Active Sonar Threats (COAST) back in 2000, shortly after I became aware of how Navy sonar is wrecking havoc on the lives of whales, dolphins, and so many others in our oceans.
COAST participated in a lawsuit (2009-13) brought against the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service in an attempt to halt the construction of the Navy’s Undersea Warfare Training Range (USWTR), which will be located, outrageously, just offshore of the only known calving grounds of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
The USWTR case has much in common with the ongoing legal battle being waged to stop the construction of the US Marine Corps air base at Oura Bay to protect the last remaining Okinawan dugongs. Both the right whales and dugongs face grave threats to their continued existence as a direct result of proposed US military installations.
Very recently, on August 21st, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed plaintiffs standing to sue, and the need for the US government to adhere to US law even regarding projects in another country. This, coupled with the continuing, inspired resistance to the base construction by the Okinawan people and their supporters, offer the only real hope for the dugong.
But my desire to join the VFP Okinawa delegation is by no means only about the dugong.It is also about justice and peace.
Having had the great opportunity to be on the VFP delegation on the Jeju leg of the 2015 Jeju/Okinawa trip, I was able to see first hand some of the horrendous impacts our military is having on people’s lives, communities, and environment. That time in Jeju was extremely valuable to me, for what I was able to experience and learn, and for the inspiration I continue to receive from it: Inspiration that feeds my artwork and my activism. I feel incredibly honored, and extremely grateful, to have been a part of that team.
I see VFP as a critical player in the global movement for ending war. Who better to move us away from militarism than those who have had their lives changed by it? This delegation to Okinawa will grow solidarity between people struggling against militarism and war in the US and Okinawa and beyond, and help to energize their resistance.
I am not a veteran. I applied for CO status and was denied in the last months of the conscription lottery. But I believe that my experience as an activist, my passion, and my desire to help bring about the change so desperately needed can be of value. Thank you for including me in the VFP Okinawa delegation.
I was born on a U.S. military base overseas. My first 8 years were on U.S. military bases overseas. I was told that the U.S. military presence was to protect the local people, and the world, from threats. Which threats they were referring to, I had no idea. But after traveling to places like Okinawa, where I've been twice now, I've completely changed my view of what bases actually do to local populations.
We never hear about our military, our own American people, raping the local women, destroying their environments, or influencing their governments to take up policies that are harmful to its own people. When we travel to Okinawa, we will hear all these stories. We will see it firsthand. These are the stories we need to learn, understand, and tell when we get back to our homeland.
We can also learn the inspiring stories of hope from the local resistance to U.S. imperialism. Some of the smallest villages in the world are leading the way in fighting against the most powerful empire ever to exist: indigenous people, villagers, women, kids, mayors, internationals, and so on. These are also the stories we can learn, understand, and bring back.
We can be the link that unifies international resistance to imperialism. Especially as veterans, who have a special voice in American society, it is our duty to bring those stories home. This is how we wage peace.
Nyamekye Anderson (Enya)
I grew up in California and spent summers in Mississippi with my family. I have seen and experienced a full spectrum of love, hate, racism and fairness. My understanding of the past and the history of what my family has endured, encouraged me to be a part of positive change in more than just my community, city, state- but also globally. I wanted to be part of an outstanding impact that would produce global peace and justice for all. To think that the military would be this type of positive impact was naïve of me. More than ever, the experience was a lesson learned- another repeat of history right before my eyes.
To be at peace is to be in a state of serenity with yourself and with people around you and to realize that we are here for but a brief time--nothing is ours. We are born on this earth owning nothing and we will leave with nothing but the knowledge of what our experiences have been. Having this understanding sets me on the right path of peace within, which allows me to share peace with others.
My parents raised me by the saying, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” They gave me the understanding of what you do will affect you. Knowing this, I treat everyone with respect and keep an open mind to understand the viewpoints of others on different matters.
To live in peace begins with having peace within. We all must understand that we all share the same world. What affects our neighbors also directly affects us. What we say and do needs to educate and demonstrate our values as humans on this planet. This trip to Okinawa will hopefully be the first of many trips ahead to further educate myself and demonstrate my ethics and values. This trip will enable me to educate others with information of what is happening in the world today.
Each day we live is a day of opportunity to make changes in our own lives and in the lives of others, which creates positive change in the world we live in. Obtaining peace may seem to be a difficult task, but the simplicity of peace is just a matter of understanding that you are your neighbor and your neighbor is you. Most important, know that you are of the earth and will return to the earth--so treat it right. Through peace we can have a better world.
Though I was a member of the U.S. Army for just under ten years, I never deployed outside of the United States. And though I have now been active in the peace movement for just over ten years, I have never witnessed the reality of the impacts of U.S. war and militarism abroad firsthand. The more I have learned about the implications of my military service in the context of our broader foreign and domestic policies, the more I have come to regret ever raising my hand. With that being said, I have come to greatly admire and find strength in the united actions of people across the globe working toward a common goal of world peace and justice. It would be my honor and privilege to stand in solidarity with the people of Okinawa. I hope to use this opportunity to better educate myself and others about the struggles of the people of Okinawa and the beauty of their culture.
As a second-generation Okinawan-American borne of an Okinawan mother/family that survived the Battle of Okinawa and an Ashkanazi (German-Jew) Marine father who fought not only in Okinawa as a teen, but in Korea and Vietnam over 27 years, I did not choose this position as much as it was inherited to me. I am a product of war in Okinawa and I am blessed with this sacred responsibility to my family, people and Ancestors to defend our motherland from enemies foreign and domestic- namely militarism historically.
Given this positionality I was born into, it has become my life’s mission to seek justice and restore peace for our people since I first heard an appeal by Okinawan grassroots leaders for peace in 1993 and have been organizing and peacefully fighting for this cause since, including co-founding the Bay Area Okinawa Peace Network and HOA (Hawai`i Okinawa Alliance). However, while Okinawa is “personal” so to speak, my larger calling has been to challenge militarism in general--whether in Okinawa or Oklahoma, I have enlisted myself as a “soldier of peace lifer” so to speak, having done extensive research into the nature of war and militarism, pledging eternal peacemaking with the scourge of militarism, and maintaining solidarity with my indigenous allies in similar struggles.
Given that this foreign military occupation of Okinawa (made possible by Imperial Japan) has dragged on for over 7 decades for various reasons, one of the many strategies to help change this is the essential need for non-Okinawans (particularly citizens of the occupying nations: US and Japan) to organize and take action that such injustice ends; this delegation is another way for non-Okinawans to join our human chains around the military bases to show our resolve to actively work for peace, justice and demilitarization- extending these “human chains” around the planet.
As an Okinawan, I am more “pro-peace” than “anti-war.” It is not enough to fight against something, as it is to stand for something; in Okinawa, the saying “nuchi du takara” (‘Life is a treasure’) is the foundation of the people’s movement in Okinawa to preserve life (human and otherwise), but “the how” is as important: via non-violent and non-lethal means to secure such ends.
Colonies like Okinawa, Guam, Hawai`i, etc. live under the constant threat of military retribution, as well as military contamination, crimes and economic dependency. A true liberation from occupied militarism entails freedom from foreign wars, as well the self-determination to create sustainable ecosystems & local economies.
As a practicing Shin Buddhist, it is part of my spiritual path to engage in right action, right speech, right livelihood, etc. with compassionate wisdom--such as the reality that we’re all interconnected and interdependent. This is not therapy, hobby or religious rhetoric: I am inspired to work for the “beloved community” Rev. MLK, Jr. spoke of, addressing the "triplets" of oppression: racism, militarism and classism.
Paul Robeson said, "An artist must elect to fight for slavery or freedom." In this era of "alternative facts," it is more critical than ever to harness the power of firsthand accounts and images of struggles against greed, war, and militarism around the globe. As a photographer, graphic artist, journalist, and musician, I try to use my skills in the service of the struggle for justice.Traveling to Okinawa, a land scarred by war and decades of occupation, allows me to see for myself the violence, environmental degradation, and economic distortions spawned by my government's worldwide network of militarism and paid for by my taxes. To stand in solidarity with the courageous and steadfast people of that island and to bring back their truth to a culture based on self-serving lies is for me an honor, a duty, and a necessity.
As a Marine Corps officer, I served two tours of duty on Okinawa — first with the Third Marine Division in 1959 and 1960 and later as Company Commander, Company D, Marine Support Battalion at Torii Station. For part of that first tour I was stationed at Camp Schwab in Henoko, and I fell in love with Oura Bay. Every morning when I walked out of the BOQ and looked out over the bay, I reflected on how lucky I was to be stationed at such a beautiful spot.
During my second tour on the island, I was one of the very few fortunate Marines to be able to have my family with me. We lived off-base in Kita-Nakagusuku and devoted part of our spare time to teaching English in a small village near the southern tip of the island where we got to know quite a few Okinawan families. Our own children were both born on the island.
All of these experiences combined to instill in me a deep affection for Okinawa and its people; so it pains me greatly to see the callous disregard of the United States government for the desire of the Okinawan people to protect their precious environmental treasures: Oura Bay and Takae Forest. I therefore feel compelled to do what I can to stand with the courageous Okinawans who continue year after year to demand that the governments of Japan and the United States cease the construction in Henoko and Takae, close the dangerous Marine Corps Air Facility at Futenma, and relocate Air Force operations from Kadena to bases in mainland Japan.
While on VFP's recent people-to-people peace-building delegation to Cuba, I met a father from Takae who came all the way to Guantanamo to inform attendees at the 5th International Seminar for Peace and Abolition of Foreign Military Bases on what the U.S. presence in Okinawa is doing to his family, community, and environment. He, his companions, and I spent a lot of time together discussing other issues related to U.S. occupation, such as sexual violence. He invited me to come to Takae as soon as possible, so that we could continue to build on strategies to address these problems. My goal in going, aside from the opportunity to grow my capacity to serve peace, is to follow through on my commitment to these wonderful people--to show up for them as they have asked - and gather pertinent information to use in the design of future social change interventions.
I am Okinawan-American and an activist. I need to get back to my roots—to resist and learn with local Okinawan communities on the ground and to work in coalition to protect the environment and people. I have been involved with several social justice causes these past few years—the anti-war movement, anti-racism work, sanctuary and more—but none are as close to my heart as the fight for justice in Okinawa. I now have an opportunity to visit Okinawa with Veterans For Peace (VFP), be part of a movement to support indigenous rights, organize for the removal of the destructive U.S. military bases, and work to help uplift local organizing efforts with Okinawan activists on the ground. I will participate in direct action and witness firsthand the brutality of the U.S. military occupation and the resilience of my people.
As a member of the Ryukyu Okinawa VFP chapter and as acting secretary for the Washington, DC VFP chapter, this is an extremely rare and exciting opportunity for me to be both a teacher and student. It is my hope that this experience will deepen connections in resisting these U.S. bases and further promote just allyship. I intend to bring back actionable items for U.S. citizens to take on Okinawa, strategies for connecting indigenous issues with the environmental movement, and a lifetime of future activism. After the delegation, I will be visiting my family in Miyako where I will learn the growing militarization threat there and be part of my mother's community, which sadly is a rare opportunity for me. I am lucky to have the time to spend time with my grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and more around the holidays. I also hope to help strengthen the voices of the smaller islands and encourage youth to be part of a growing movement for peace.
This will be my third trip with a Veterans For Peace delegation to Okinawa. On previous trips I found that the history of Okinawa, what the people there endured over 70-years ago, in one of the most brutal battles of WW II, was a motivating factor in their struggle to be out from under the dominance of Japanese and U.S. American military occupation.
In Okinawa, standing (and sitting) with protestors blocking construction vehicles at Henoko and later at Takae, where the Marines, with Japanese government help are building helicopter ports for Osprey helicopters, I saw the day-in day-out determination of the islanders to protect and preserve the sea and forest they love, the animals and sea creatures like the endangered dugong, whom they cherish, and to resist both Japanese and American Imperialism, which had already destroyed many Okinawa lives.
I also saw the love, the joy of resisting together, and the anger at the governments of Japan and the U.S. for trampling on the islanders determination not to be a base for war-making. There was a wisdom here, a determination to never give in, to nonviolently resist until victory, and there was a knowledge that what was happening in Okinawa was being noticed and repeated wherever people were struggling for their freedom and rights.
The presence of former U.S. military meant a lot. It showed the world that they, the Okinawans, were not alone, that their struggle was connected to other struggles, such as Jeju Island, Korea, and even Standing Rock, which they were aware of and it showed us, the U.S. veterans, how important it was to reinforce in-person these bonds of global solidarity. We saw that their struggle was our struggle, that there is a commonality between all of us struggling to make the world a better, more peaceful and just place – for everyone, and for the animals and the living earth.
But there is more. I don’t quite know how to say this, but one finds oneself falling in love with the people, with the island and with their struggle for justice. Bottom line, that’s why I’m returning to Okinawa. It’s an issue of love.
I was stationed at Camp Schwab in 1995 when that 12-year-old girl was abducted by two of my own fellow Marines and a Navy man. I had arrived in Okinawa after a year at Guantanamo Bay on Leeward Side, where I had already become disillusioned to the idea that our military bases were anything but toxic. There were protests against our presence and I remember wanting to join them but being too scared to "break ranks." I wanted to be anywhere but where I was, but after my six-month tour I got to leave and come back to a far more comfortable life in Jacksonville, NC. Those protesters had to stay there, many are still protesting today.
It took many years to heal after being discharged from the Marines in 1996. One of the greatest sources of strength I have found in recent years has been the solidarity I've come to feel with fellow VFP members. This opportunity to go back to Okinawa, as an outsider now 22 years later, and stand or sit in solidarity, and resist a new base in Henoko is a chance to give my energy and support for the Okinawan people's human rights and all of our environmental rights.
I stand with the people of Okinawa and all oppressed peoples around the world to demand equal justice under unjust laws, or an abolition of the laws. I look forward to lending my body and my voice to the prevention process of the "ongoing construction" and helping to end the Japanese-sanctioned U.S. military occupation of Okinawa. I want to aid, in any positive manner, garnering international attention for the struggle of the Okinawan people.
Documentary Filmmaker / Freelance Journalist
Many people I have met have questioned me: “What motivated you to become journalist / documentary filmmaker?”
Remembering my childhood, my Japanese grandfather had a powerful influence by telling me his experience during WWⅡ. When the war started, he was an elementary school student, who loved studying. His dream was to become a doctor to help people in the future. However, one day the school was shut down and he was forced by the Japanese military to work at a weapon industry, where he was ordered to produce human torpedo (suicide craft) to fight against the US. He was only 13 years old.
He always taught me that he was manipulated by the military and the government, through the imperialistic education he had received that basically told him “sacrifice yourself for your country, and it’s the ultimate respect for the Emperor.” He taught me the importance (and the fear) of education and media, but more than that, with his regret, he told me of a responsibility of ordinary people, people who were easily manipulated by the authority, and did not question the status quo, which supported the war. He has died 5 years ago, but I feel that his lesson is still alive with me in my heart and mind.
It brought me to Okinawa, islands with pain, and I saw the strength of the people. This is where I started my career as a journalist at Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting, a local TV station since 2012.
As a reporter, I met with and listened to Okinawan people who have been fighting against injustice for 72 years, including the people in Takae and Henoko. Whenever I talked to the elderly people who survived the Battle of Okinawa, they told me that they didn’t want to talk about their war experiences, because it’s very painful for them to talk about. However, at the same time they told me “I would like to tell you my war experience, including the one that I haven’t even talked to my family, because I want to stop another war. I don’t want to see my homeland Okinawa to be used for war anymore.”
Every time I met with the survivors, I felt that a baton for the future was relayed – a future where nobody would be killed or harmed in war. As a journalist, as well as a young citizen of Japan and of the global society in the 21st century, I want to keep that baton with me to realize a future of peace. I’m doing this, not because out of pity for people in Okinawa, but rather, because I feel it’s my own responsibility and it’s my own issue as well. As a Japanese, I feel my responsibility to oppose all the wars and conflicts caused by the U.S., especially because Japan has been supporting these wars through the US military bases here in Japan. I do not want to live as a perpetrator of war and injustice anymore. I want to say “don’t worry, Okinawa would never be used for war anymore” to the survivors of the Battle of Okinawa whom I have interviewed. I want to say “let’s wake up and face the reality” to the majority of Japanese people who believe that the US bases are protecting Japan without question.
Therefore, I take my voice, video camera, and a pen to make documentaries and reports. That’s why I’m where with you all. I want to make a documentary with all of you. Together we will make change and create our ideal future that our children will be living in without war.
Thank you! Arigatou!
PS: Here is a short news report that I made last year on the last VFP delegation in Okinawa.
The narration is all in Japanese, but you hopefully you will understand with some English interviews.