Jaden Risner

It is hard to believe that it has been almost a year since last year’s USJC Annual Conference in Washington, DC. I feel extremely fortunate that my ELP cohort has been in constant communication since last October. Despite our busy lives, we have all made a strong effort to see one another when we find ourselves in each other’s backyard. Whether it is for work or personal reasons, we find the time to continue to build our relationships, as we all recognize the importance of our USJC connection along with our growing friendships.

I was recently provided the opportunity to travel to Hawaii to present my experiences while I was involved in Operation Tomodachi as a first responder following the 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami. As a Nisei, my experience as a first responder was unique and very personal in many ways. By timing and virtue, I was given the opportunity to help those in need in Japan, and I thank USJC Board Member Colbert Matsumoto for generously hosting the venue for this event.

With my mother being from Japan, it is truly amazing to think that I was back in Japan, helping those we consider “family.” To have my Japanese grandmother, whose generation witnessed the origin of the alliance, express support and affirmation demonstrates the profound importance of our sustained efforts to strengthen the many bridges that connect the United States and Japan. As a military humanitarian operation, Operation Tomodachi has and continues to have a profound and permanent impact on the U.S.-Japan alliance. The experiences and bonds forged during the operation are everlasting, the TOMODACHI Initiative being a perfect example.