It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I think Okinawa is bittersweet for many Marines, and although many of us never regret coming out here we also can't wait to leave. Here are the 7 things I'll miss the most about Okinawa:
1. The sunsets.
If one thing is true it is that you will never find anything like an Okinawan sunset. There's nothing like sitting on the stairs by Kinser Theater, with the breeze on your back while watching the burning sun sink quietly into the horizon. Also watching Marines get caught in colors just to get that one Instagram worthy shot of the sun going down never gets old either. The perfect lighting of your selfie is worth the solid three minutes you stood at POA.
2. Kinser Theater.
Or as I like to call it, The Loner Life Saver. For those who aren't heavy drinkers, socializers or spenders, Kinser Theater is always available. Despite it smelling like my grandma's basement and looking like it was built in 1775 AND having the springs from the chairs give you a butt cramp, forcing you to adjust your sitting position at least 15 times during the movie, the Kinser Theater always brought me comfort.
On lazy Sunday afternoons where hangovers hang in the air so thick it feels like the walls of the barracks are sweating booze, the Kinser Theater is a better cure than vitamin water. The damp, stale air is almost refreshing as you come in from the treacherous five-minute walk from barracks 1225 in the Okinawan heat. You breathe a sigh of relief knowing you can put as much melted butter as you want on your already overly salted popcorn.
But most of all the theater is a place where Marines can take a much-needed break and enjoy a good movie together. (Also watching new joins drop their popcorn and candy as they scramble to stand for the National Anthem before the movie is always entertaining too.)
Surfside is like a car accident that is so bad you just can't look away from it. Surfside starts off as a place where Marines go to have a couple drinks and talk about the stress of their week, but it all too soon ends with "Yo, what happened last night?" As you watch your friends snap stories to try and piece together the events that unfolded the night before, you swear to yourself you will never go back to SS or drink again. Until next Saturday rolls around and your bank account is feeling light and your karaoke skills are on high.
Surfside is also the start and the end of so many relationships. One minute you're sitting there making plans to get married, but the minute you change her Taylor Swift up next on the jukebox to Post Malone, she's swiping right on somebody else's picture on Tinder. The best thing about Surfside is not the cringe-worthy movement on the dance floor, or the couple practically having sex in the corner or even the guys who bring their own pool sticks to play pool.
No, the best thing about Surfside is that they made, probably the best decision since letting Lance Corporal's put in POV packages. Bulldogs now have milkshakes on their menu! And these aren't just any milkshakes, these are top of the line diner style milkshakes. What's better than a strawberry milkshake after dropping it like it's hot on the dance floor next store?
4. The barracks.
We all have a love-hate relationship with the barracks but if we're being honest the barracks is one of the best things about Okinawa. In the states Marines are never in the barracks, most owning povs or even apartments. The struggle of Okinawa is that renting an apartment is not an option for unaccompanied Marines, the Bachelor Enlisted Quarters are now your home.
Now although they're nothing to run and tell MTV'S Cribs about, they're still your home and if it makes you feel better, before your NCO's or SNCO's come in to inspect your room try yelling "WELCOME TO MY CRIB!" (P.S that was just for comedic relief, please do not yell welcome to my crib to your NCO's or SNCO's). Honestly, nothing makes me happier than walking up the stairs to the fourth deck and seeing Marines cook dinner with each other in the lounges, or watch the game together. In fact, the first time I made any friends here was in the third deck lounge watching the super bowl.
Also nothing brings Marines more together than standing out in the parking lot at 4am, in a very interesting sea of colored pajamas with the sound of the fire alarm going off all because Marines don't know how to use a toaster. Like sergeants, the barracks are the backbone of comradery out here and I hope they never lose that because you never know the lifetime friendships you'll make while searching for available washers from deck to deck.
5. The green line.
The green line is a life saver for most of us POVless Marines. With honchos starting at 550 yen, the green line gives you a free and somewhat enjoyable ride from base to base. Now if you're like me the first thing you do when getting on the green line is pick out a nice window seat, put your headphones in and hope no one tries to talk to you. And it works....that is until you see the ocean of Marines at the Futenma stop.
Now you're forced to slide as close to the window as you can to make room for someone to sit next to you. My biggest pet peeve about having an empty seat next to you is that you always have that one who asks, "Is it okay if I sit here?" Now I'm forced to take out my headphones so I can hear you and whether the answer to that question was a yes or no, we all know it's not going to stop you from sitting there! The bus already full, who would I be saving this lovely tethered seat for...my imaginary boyfriend? Anyways, I'm getting off topic, despite the rant I just went on I really do love the green line.
Most of the time when I catch the green line I have no exact destination, I just want to put my headphones in, shut the world out and "drive" for a little bit. Also if you're on the shuttle greenline shouting "next stop!" is no joke, the drivers will drive right past your building with zero F's given if you don't say the magic words.
Kadena is the closest thing to heaven out here. With they're PX so big it could almost pass as a mini Walmart, they're gym being so full of functioning and up to date equipment you almost feel like you're at a Vent Fitness, and of course Chilis. You almost forget that you're in another country while on Kadena. It's a little part of America, that, of course, you can't get on the green line (Sorry Tier 2 Marines).
All good things come from Kadena, whether it be your new flat screen TV, your buzz after drinking too many margaritas at Chilis, or your flight home. All good things come from Kadena. Don't even get me started on their theater! As I mentioned above Kinser theater is literally someone's basement with chairs, Kadena Theater, however, is epic.
The best way I can compare the two is Kinser Theater is like Mia Thermopolis before becoming the princess of Genovia and Kadena Theater is Mia after becoming the princess. (Only my Princess Diaries fans will get that comparison) Anyways you get the point, Kadena is royalty that is always invested with the peasants of other bases.
7. The Marines.
Last but not least, I will miss all my Marines. Every Marine I have met out here has impacted my life, some in a positive way and some in a negative but there was always a lesson to be leaned. I grew up out here, I spent 18 years trying to figure out what growing up meant, but in the two years I've spent in Okinawa I've become an adult.
I realized that the growth process isn't about your age but about your mindset. I've literally gone through the worst and best of times out here, I went through the growing pains of learning, failing and succeeding at becoming a leader of Marines. There is no worse feeling than feeling like the rank you wear is too big for you, but there's no better feeling than when you've come to realize you've outgrown the rank you wear and are hungry and ready for the next. I am not at all where I want to be but I am so much further than I ever thought I could go and it's all because of the Marines to the left and right of me.
It's because they took the time to make me better, a better Marine and a better person. I could go on forever about the Marines I've met here but all I'll say is this. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for showing me who I am, what I can do, and how to make the Marines under my charge the best they can be. I will miss all of you.