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Family values on foreign soil

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rhett Isbell
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs

A Shogun Airman from Kadena Air Base, Japan, has been recognized for his continuous volunteer efforts over the past two years to help Nakanomachi Elementary School maintain their school grounds starting at approximately Oct. 2019 during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Senior Airman Darren Meno, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron fire truck and refueling maintenance technician, began giving his personal time and funds to help a good friend. 

“Mr. Miyagi plays on my softball team and he asked me one day how much it would cost to buy a lawnmower,” Meno said. “I said why do you need to buy one when I can give you one?” 

This selfless effort was the beginning of Meno’s contributions to both his friend and his community. He continued assisting Mr. Miyagi, school volunteer, by helping cut the grass, maintaining the lawnmowers, and even contributed another lawnmower for the school. 

Being there for someone wasn’t something new to Meno; they’re both on a local softball team called the Tisu Softball Club. “Tisu” means family to the Chamorro peoples of Guam and surrounding islands in the Pacific Ocean, a community Meno and his family are a part of. 

“Mr. Miyagi is like a father figure to me,” Meno said. “I thought if he’s volunteering, then I need to be there and help in that situation. I’d also go by the school now and then and see the children playing outside on the grounds. It was heartwarming to see all of that effort being appreciated even if I couldn’t understand what the kids were saying.”

Without realizing it, Meno serves as a demonstration of what it means to be a service member and ally stationed in a Japanese community. After assisting Mr. Miyagi’s volunteer efforts for two years, Meno was recognized by the Nakanomachi Elementary School for his continuous contributions.

“I was really proud to see how Meno’s efforts were able to help out the local community, to the degree that he was honored by them,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jose Cano, 18th LRS NCO in charge of refueling maintenance. “It’s all about giving back more than you recieve.” 

While the recognition was certainly appreciated, Meno said  it wasn’t his driving force.

“I didn’t set out to do it for any sort of recognition,” Meno said. “I started helping because a friend was in need and I believe that’s what family is for; to lean on during tough times.”