- The Washington Times - Monday, August 27, 2007

Honoring the troops

With help from his family, the quiet soldier mangled by a roadside bomb in Iraq settled into his wheelchair with a plate of Japanese food at a weekend barbecue hosted by Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato.

“It’s real nice of him to do this. Nice hospitality,” said Army Spc. Travis Sigmon, who lost his left arm and suffered severe injuries to his legs three months ago.

The soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division had been in Iraq for nine months when he was hit by the bomb. Treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the North Carolina native expects to walk again soon.

Mr. Kato honored Spc. Sigmon and hundreds of others like him who served in Iraq, Afghanistan or Japan at his fifth-annual barbecue for U.S. troops.

“They are the people who are attending the cause of world peace and stability,” Mr. Kato told Embassy Row. “This is the only way I can express our deep appreciation for what they have been doing.”

In remarks to guests, Mr. Kato elaborated on Japan’s dedication to the American military and alliance with the United States in the war on terrorism. Japan provides naval and air support to help refuel and resupply U.S. troops in Iraq and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

“We diplomats often look at the world from lofty heights,” he said. “To us the global war on terror is about the safety of democratic civilization. Soldiers often look at the world from the ground, the ground on which you have marched and fought and bled. …

“Those of you who wear a uniform represent not only the noblest ideals of service but its courageous realities. In some, we can see those realities in your bandages. In others, when you are in uniform, we can see the realities in the ribbons and citations on your chest.”

Mr. Kato noted that Japan’s security depends on U.S. protection by men and women like those at his barbecue.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he added, “there is no other nation on the face of the earth on which we would depend so trustingly.”

His guests included many badly wounded veterans treated at Walter Reed, as well as officers who served in security operations in Japan.

Air Force Lt. Col. Scott MacKenzie, stationed in Washington, spent three years in Japan supporting counterterrorism operations. He and his wife, Suzette, attended the barbecue with their children, Shannon, 10, Samantha, 7, and Spencer, 3.

“This is a good way to build relations,” he said of Saturday’s afternoon cookout.

Mrs. MacKenzie enjoyed the traditional architecture and gardens of the ambassador’s residence.

“It’s really nice to see Japanese culture and to remember the smells and the hospitality,” she said, as smoke from the beef searing on open grills wafted over the table.

On the patio, Mr. Kato joined Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, Vice Adm. John Cotton and Marine Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski to experience a little sweat and saki, as the temperature soared into the 90s.

Ask a Briton

Got a question about U.S.-British relations or Britain’s foreign, defense or counterterrorism policies?

Mariot Leslie, director-general for defense and intelligence from Britain’s Foreign Office, is in Washington to answer them as part of a new interactive program by the British Embassy.

Send an e-mail to questions@britainusa.com by tomorrow’s deadline, and Mrs. Leslie will respond on Thursday.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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