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USS Reagan Marks 3rd Anniversary Of Japan Earthquake, Tsunami

Above: U.S. Marines and Sailors, along with Japanese-American community members, gathered in Coronado on board the USS Ronald Reagan to mark the 3rd Anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, March 11, 2014.

The U.S. Navy held a memorial Tuesday in Coronado to mark the third anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011. Hundreds of Marines and sailors, along with the Japanese-American community, gathered on board the USS Ronald Reagan for a time of remembrance.

"Today we remember those who perished and suffered greatly due to the disaster, but at the same time we celebrate the good news of Tohoku's ongoing recovery and rebuilding," said Jun Niimi, consul general of Japan in Los Angeles.

The 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami killed 16,000 people, left 2,600 missing and caused a partial meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The USS Ronald Reagan was the first aircraft carrier to the scene of disaster. The Reagan's 5,500-member crew searched 2,000 square miles of ocean to rescue people and recover victims who were washed out to sea. They also delivered relief supplies to devastated regions.

"The people of the United States saved lives and offered un-shaking hope in a time of great need," said Niimi. "Words cannot express our tremendous gratitude."

Cpt. Chris Bolt, commanding officer of the USS Ronald Reagan, said his crew was a small part of a large effort.

"Together with our Japanese and U.S. Navy teammates, we assisted in delivering more than 260 tons of relief supplies to isolated pockets of Japanese citizens ashore," said Bolt. "It is fitting then that we take time on this anniversary to stand here and remember -- remember how our two nations came together during a time of crisis."

Japanese-American, Machiko Samons attended the hour-long ceremony. She was born in Fukushima and has a brother and cousins still living there. She said she continues to worry about their well-being.

"My brother was working for the city government, so after the disaster they worked so hard to recover the roads and bridges, and that part was okay," said Samons. "But you know, the radiation concerns -- especially for small children – that was a big problem for them."

Radiation concerns continue to mount three years later. Dozens of crew members who were aboard the Reagan during the disaster allege health problems from radiation exposure, and have filed a $1 billion class action lawsuit against Tokyo Power.

The USS Reagan ceased its humanitarian efforts and sailed 100 miles out to sea three days after the quake on March 14 to avoid a radioactive plume from Fukushima.

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