Fort Lewis tree donation continues long-standing tradition
November 21, 2008
FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Providing the annual Christmas tree for the City of Tacoma has been a long-standing tradition at Fort Lewis, and this year was no different.
Once again, representatives from the Tacoma business community and Fort Lewis gathered at the tree-cutting site Nov. 13 for the 62nd annual Christmas tree ceremony.
Chaplain (Col.) Richard Parker, garrison chaplain, opened the ceremony with a prayer, and Col. Cynthia A. Murphy, garrison commander, thanked everyone for attending.
"We are very proud of the relationship that we have with the City of Tacoma," she said.
Murphy talked about how different things signify the beginning of the holidays for different people.
"This tree cutting has become a symbol to me that signifies the beginning of the season," she said.
Phyllis Harrison, Tacoma business owner who helped to coordinate the event for several years, also made a few comments.
"This certainly does mean the season is here," Harrison said.
She thanked the military for everything the Soldiers do to keep everyone safe. She also recognized the Broadway Center of the Performing Arts and the Life Center for supporting the annual tradition.
Murphy took the first ceremonial swing with the ax at the city's 50-foot Christmas tree. Susan Fofi, spouse of Col. Randall Fofi, commander, 555th Engineer Brigade, and several others followed the garrison commander.
At the end of the ceremony, personnel from Tacoma Power and Soldiers from the 864th Engineer Battalion stood by to cut and load the tree onto a truck to be tranported to the city.
Soldiers used an M916 tractor and an M870 trailer to transport the tree. It was scheduled to depart from the Madigan gate at about midnight, escorted by members of the Tacoma Police Department, and to arrive in downtown Tacoma at 12:45 a.m, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Turner, of 864th Engr. Bn.
"They are going to take off 16 feet of branches from the bottom of the tree because that's going to go down below the street into a pre-made hole to hold the tree securely in place," Turner said.
Sergeant Richard Wulf served as the NCO in charge of the five-man detail from the 864th Engr. Bn.
Harrison, who has been involved in the event since 1998, said the tree-selection process actually started several months ago. Along with other representatives from Fort Lewis, Tacoma Fire Department and Tacoma Power, Harrison helped select the tree in August.
"As a downtown business owner, I take a personal interest in this annual event," she said. "Generations of Tacoma residents start their Christmas season by watching this tree being lit.
"It launches the holiday season for downtown Tacoma," she said.
Once the tree is standing in place at 9th and Broadway Streets downtown, the Tacoma Fire Department will decorate the tree with lights.
The official tree-lighting ceremony will be Nov. 29 at 5 p.m.
Barbara L. Sellers is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.