Spirits undampened at annual holiday tree lighting ceremony
December 13, 2011
By Rhonda Apple
Wednesday, as the cold, rainy day turned into night, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall's landscape near McNair Road and Lee Avenue brightened during the annual tree lighting ceremony.
Sponsored by the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and the United Service Organizations of Metropolitan Washington, the ceremony was moved to nearby Brucker Hall, home of the U.S. Army Band, due to the inclement weather.
While guests arrived, 14 fourth and fifth grade students from Barcroft Elementary School Chorus sang Christmas carols with Sgt. 1 st Class Alex Helsabeck, from The U.S. Army Chorus, accompanied by The U.S. Army Band brass quintet.
As the auditorium filled with about 150 children and staff from JBM-HH Cody Child Development Center, alone with Family members and service personnel, Todd Hopkins, DFMWR recreation specialist and special events coordinator, welcomed everyone and introduced Chap. (Col.) Matt Woodbery, for the invocation and Col. Carl R. Coffman, commander JBM-HH, who thanked everyone attending.
"Although the holiday season is a special time for all of us here … when you are downrange, you're thinking of your Family a great deal," said Coffman. He asked everyone to remember Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen who are deployed during the holidays and to keep them in our thoughts and prayers. Due to the inclement weather, Coffman explained the alternate arrangements for the tree lighting, and asked everyone to remain inside, to enjoy singing Christmas carols and promised the tree would be lit when they left the ceremony. He also promised to return with a very special guest.
Barcroft Elementary School students Jenna Alcorn and Vincent Galang, and Madison Morita, 5, from the CDC Strong Beginnings class, accompanied Coffman outside to the covered entrance of Brucker Hall together with Coffman, they gave the radio signal to Directorate of Public Works personnel to flip the electrical switch when the children yelled "Light the tree."
Standing near Headquarters Bldg. 59, the 27-foot-tall spruce tree is decorated with about 1,600 lights and surrounded by colorful gift boxes. "It takes about two weeks to prepare the lights and decorate the tree," said Jimmy Irwin, DPW maintenance mechanic. "It's not often we get to decorate. We're proud of it and we enjoy doing it."
Moments before the tree was lit, JBM-HH Firemen delivered the special guest safely to Brucker Hall. "Here Comes Santa Claus" was sung with enthusiasm and children squealed with delight as Santa, accompanied by his Elves, greeted everyone with "Merry Christmas" as the children and their parents lined up to greet the jolly old man.
"I'm going to sit on Santa's lap," Jacob Huth, 4, said as he prepared to tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas.
Everyone enjoyed holiday cookies, hot chocolate and warm apple cider. USO personnel helped children make holiday ornaments at an arts and crafts table. McGruff the Crime Dog greeted guests and Lt. Laura Moore, training and community liaison officer from the Directorate of Emergency Services, handed out holiday safety awareness information and other goodies to children and their Families.
"This is a fun-filled Family event for everyone in the joint base community to come together and enjoy the spirit of the season," said Hopkins.