SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- The atmosphere at General's Loop was thick with anticipation, and rain, here, Dec. 6.

The big man's expected arrival was uncertain.

More than 500 people bravely, yet enthusiastically, dodged intermittent rain and rapidly approaching darkness buoyed by good cheer and a clear sense of occasion at the annual tree lightning ceremony, here.

As darkness approached, the clear need for additional lighting was evident.

Col. Douglas Mulbury, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, thanked those in attendance and offered a measure of hope.

"I've been looking for him, too," he said. "I hear he'll be joining us very soon."

Soon the oncoming darkness was confronted with a growing and vocal gathering, which chanted in unison. Being summoned, the Artise family quickly came to champion the lighting effort with technical support.

Ten-year-old Kaleb Artise, with 17 month-old Jaxon sleepily watching nearby, was the surprise technical wizard when he pressed the power button at just the right moment.

Suddenly the field was transformed. Colored lights framed the mammoth 90-foot Schofield Barracks tree, accompanied by a roar from the big gathering.

Kaleb's father, Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Artise, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, "Wolfhounds," 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, beamed with pride. Home for the holidays from Afghanistan, he and his family basked in the holiday spotlight. Mission accomplished.

Moments later, as darkness gave way to the glow of the Christmas tree, the youthful crowd received yet another surprise. The hoped-for big man wasn't riding a sleigh. Instead, he was arriving on a Schofield Barracks fire truck.

"Santa Claus!" shrieked hundreds of children as they dashed towards the unmistakable bearded man decked out in red.

At the same time, as if by magic, the Protestant Worship Team from the Schofield Barracks Main Post Chapel opened their iPads and began sharing holiday music.

Elves from the garrison's Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation appeared with cookies and hot chocolate.

The holiday season had arrived with the Schofield Barracks holiday tree lighting ceremony to a field full of happy children. One-by-one, they greeted the big man with hugs and tales of hoped-for holiday treasure.

Page last updated Fri January 13th, 2012 at 17:49