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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) departed Shimoda, Japan, on May 22, after a scheduled port visit in celebration of the 84th Black Ship Festival.
The festival commemorated the 170th anniversary of the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry to Japan in 1853, a historical event that marked the beginning of diplomacy and trade agreements between the U.S. and Japan.
“The alliance between the U.S. and Japan represents the most significant bond two nations can have,” said Cmdr. Leif Gunderson, Milius’ commanding officer. “Likewise, the relationship between the U.S. Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force is one of our strongest bilateral relationships and surface ships like Milius are the basis of this long-standing relationship.”
During the port visit, Milius Sailors participated in a series of community projects, ceremonies, observances and festivities in honor of the shared history and importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance.
“Friends spend time together and celebrate together,” said Lt. Daniel Lubega, Milius’ command chaplain, who led a team in the planning and execution of multiple community relations events involving more than 200 Sailors and seven local elementary schools during the festival. “The people of Japan are our best friends, and we are here to celebrate the 170th anniversary of when our two nations were first formally introduced, so to speak.”
Operations Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Beavers, from Clare, Michigan, visiting with school children in Shimoda was especially rewarding because he has been stationed in Japan for four years now.
“Ever since I can remember, building things has been a passion of mine,” said Beavers. “The most important things we can build in life are bridges, and building bridges with other nations and their people is vital and necessary. Participating in community relations projects while representing our country is the strongest bridge building I have ever had the privilege of experiencing.”
The festival also included a memorial service at Gyokusenji Temple and an official parade, where Milius Sailors marched from Shimoda Park to Shimoda Courthouse, as well as numerous festivities where Milius Sailors had an opportunity to meet the people of Shimoda.
“It was a great experience to be able to participate in an event with such a long history and tradition,” said Aerographer’s Mate 2nd Class Pablo Muniz, who marched in the parade. “It’s also been a wonderful port visit overall. The people of Shimoda are truly some of the friendliest I’ve had the opportunity to meet and I hope I have the opportunity to come back and do this again.”
Milius is assigned to Commander, Task Force 71/DESRON 15, the Navy’s largest forward-deployed DESRON and the U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force.
U.S. 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.