JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C. -- With the obelisk of the Washington Monument in plain sight across the Potomac River, those gathered for Thursday’s Japanese cherry tree planting ceremony on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling couldn’t have asked for a better view or day to celebrate the longtime friendship between two proud nations.
Senior U.S. military personnel joined Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki and members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in planting five trees along the banks of the Potomac near JBAB’s Giesboro Park. The trees, which symbolize each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and their Japanese counterparts, are descendents of the original cherry trees given to the U.S. by Japan back in 1912 as a sign of friendship, or “tomodachi.” A monument stone was also unveiled in the same area where the grove of cherry trees will one day flourish.
“If you were to close your eyes and think of a place to plant a grove of Japanese cherry trees, this would be it,” said retired U.S. Army Col. George Newman. “The trees will one day be as high as 50 feet and have a reach of about 40 feet. They will be amazing to look at for everyone walking along the Potomac here at JBAB.”
Newman is a member of the U.S. Military Japan Alumni Association (USMJAA), which was formed in spring 2010 to assist U.S. service members and their Japanese counterparts in renewing and sustaining friendships, sharing fond memories of Japan and staying informed on the latest news and information between the two countries.
Navy Capt. Anthony T. Calandra, JBAB commander, who was stationed in Japan along with his family from 2008-2010, spoke during the ceremony and said his time there remains one of his fondest tours of duty.
“Beig able to work side-by-side with members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces was a very rewarding and delightful experience in my life,” Calandra said. “Japan remains a professional and capable friend of the U.S. in an uncertain world. It will always be a lasting partnership between two great nations.”
Retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers pointed out that when anyone comes to visit Washington, D.C., particularly during the spring season, it’s all about the Japanese cherry blossoms.
“These trees are a symbol of the bond between the U.S. and Japan,” Myers said. “There is solidarity between our two forces. Together, we try to make the world a better place for everyone.”
Fujisaki thanked everyone for attending the brisk, but beautiful morning ceremony, joking that his representatives stressed the essential ABCs to him prior to the event (Anacostia-Bolling and Calandra). He said he hopes to visit JBAB again in the future.
“The people of Japan will never forget the U.S. standing with us during our most difficult moments in history,” Fujisaki said. “This is a great event and I sure hope to come back one day and see how the trees are doing.”
More than 35,000 U.S. service members are stationed in Japan at any given time. In many cases, they are accompanied by family members, bringing the total number of those affiliated with the U.S. military residing in Japan to approximately 80,000 people, according to the USMJAA.