Hunter kicks off holidays with Tree Lighting ceremony
December 15, 2011
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - It's that time of the year again. Bright colorful lights, wreaths, and signs that convey messages of good tidings and cheer are displayed en masse throughout Hunter Army Airfield. With all of the friendly displays of the season, there was only one thing missing: the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
The festivities Dec. 8 began with Santa's elves and the Pulaski Elementary School choir leading the Soldiers, their Families and civilians in attendance through many timeless Christmas carols.
Children and adults alike were pulled from the bleachers to dance and sing with the helpers.
A rousing speech from the commander of the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion, Third Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division gave wishes of holiday cheer to the Families of Soldiers who are home and abroad.
Colonel Allan Pepin, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade commander, 3rd Inf. Div.; Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Blair, 3rd CAB sergeant major; and Chief Warrant Officer Allan Godfrey, accompanied by a group of children, came together at the giant, red power switch. After a short countdown, the tree was illuminated with hundreds of festive lights and decorations.
Soon after the tree lighting, a big red fire truck emerged carrying the man of the hour, Saint Nicholas himself. A crowd of children, shouting and jumping up and down, followed Santa to his gold and red throne, excitedly taking their place in an outstretched line to share their Christmas wishes.
"Santa's a big military supporter," said Santa. "I wish everyone a Merry Christmas. For all of the deployed Soldiers, just know that you are being watched over, and remember to enjoy yourselves."
On hand to assist Santa were many elves, dressed in green and red and donning pointy green hats. They helped keep the children, who were waiting in line, entertained with dancing, singing, and stories about the hard work being done in the North Pole to prepare for the night of Christmas Eve.
"I think it's great that the Families get together to start the season right … it's nice to be able to celebrate Christmas together," said Lyndsay Dunning, one of the elf helpers.
This event increased the feeling of Christmas spirit for the children, already anticipating the big day.
Sierra Johnson, a 5-year-old among the many children present, knew exactly what to ask for when she reached Santa. "I forgot to put something on my list -- a Hello Kitty guitar," she said.
Many of the children present were there to meet Santa for the very first time, and the parents shared the same excitement as the children. Courtney Cheeseborough was in line with her 3-month-old son, Jamal Cheeseborough, Jr.
"I'm excited," said Cheeseborough, "but I don't know how he's going to react."
The garrison chaplain, Chaplain (Maj.) John Molina, was also in line, accompanied by his wife and several grandchildren. On hand to offer the evening's prayer for the ceremony, he and his Family posed for a photo with Santa later that evening.
"Be grateful and thankful for the things that we have," said Chap. Molina, citing most of the Division being home for Christmas. "Try not to focus so much on the things that are missing."