Story by Lance Cpl. Isaac Ibarra
CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan — More than 6,000 miles separates the U.S. and Okinawa, Japan. Marines are constantly moving to and from each country. With the limited space and numerous flights, extra luggage can increase their expenses and inability to comfortably move on a moment’s notice. Because of this, countless useful items get thrown away when Marines leave the island for their next duty station.
Lance Cpl. Vincent D. Thomson noticed a need to salvage these useful resources and took action. He came up with a donation program, Swap Shop, to put things normally discarded back into use.
Thomson arrived to Okinawa in March 2014, and after about two months of living in the barracks on Camp Hansen, he established the Swap Shop on the second floor of his building.
The Swap Shop operates on merit. Anyone can take anything from the shop, but they must donate something in return. The shop carries items ranging from board games and books to uniform items.
“A lot of my experiences before the Marine Corps involved being jobless and homeless,” said Thomson, 29 years old, from Wilmington, Vermont. “Resources were very scarce. It wasn’t easy to get a pair of boots without a job. I had to salvage a lot of things. When a pair of good shoes are being thrown away it triggers a lot of memories, so that was the key to my determination (to open Swap Shop).”
Thomson put in a lot of his personal time to implement the Swap Shop and plans to take it beyond his barracks.
“I’m trying to implement them in other barracks,” said Thomson. “It’s a slow and cumbersome process because it required a lot of my personal time. In order for me to make this one happen, I had to get people to like the idea by talking about the benefits and explaining how I’m going to be dependable when I do it.”
After the Swap Shop opened, Thomson noticed how beneficial it was for other Marines.
“One of the most rewarding examples of having the Swap Shop is when people come up to me and tell me how awesome it is, and how much they save money and help others financially through the donations,” said Thomson.
The shop is open Sunday afternoons and Monday through Friday in the evenings. Thomson routinely organizes new items to ensure the shop stays organized and easy to use.
“If we coordinated how we got rid of things, we can save everybody thousands of dollars,” said Thomson. “My ultimate goal is to have a Swap Shop in every barracks in the Marine Corps before I leave in three years.”
For those looking to participate, the Swap Shop is located at Camp Hansen Barracks 2667 in the second floor storage room.