SAN DIEGO - Sailors assigned to USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) received photos and thank you messages written on origami cranes from Japanese citizens during a ceremony on board the ship, Oct. 24.
The gifts were given in appreciation of the ship's efforts during Operation Tomodachi, an operation that provided humanitarian aid and disaster relief assistance after an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in March 2011.
The event was organized by Helping Hands, a Yokosuka, Japan-based organization designed to help families displaced by the tragedy.
Masako Sullivan, founder of Helping Hands, said the idea of sending gifts to the Sailors who assisted with Tomodachi began with a woman in Fukushima, Japan who wanted to thank the Navy for everything they had done for her.
"I suggested that we send origami cranes with names and messages on the wings," Sullivan said. "We collected cranes from all over Japan to donate them to the ships that took part in Tomodachi."
Sullivan said giving something back to the Sailors and the Navy for their assistance was important for her.
"I knew that a lot of Sailors donated blankets, clothes and a lot of personal items," said Sullivan. "I knew it wasn't because the Navy told them to, but because they really wanted to help people. It was beyond the Navy's job. I wanted the people of Japan to continue remembering those things and give something back to the Navy."
Operations Specialist 2nd Class Jennifer Kennington, assigned to the Operations Department aboard Harpers Ferry, vividly remembers responding to the disaster.
"When we were out there you could see buildings and pieces of houses out in the ocean," Kenninton said. "It was devastating and sad. We were glad to be there as relief and help support them."
Kennington said she enjoyed the ceremony, and was touched by the messages written on the origami cranes.
"One of the cranes someone made said that they had lost their family, but they were thankful for the U.S. Navy giving them courage and supporting them through everything," said Kennington.