Fort Sill rings in season with tree lighting
December 13, 2012
Fort Sill celebrated the bright lights, song, dance and trappings of the holiday season Dec. 6 with a tree lighting party in front of McNair Hall.
Col. Donald Fryc, Air Defense Artillery School commandant and chief of ADA, welcomed a substantial crowd to Sill's annual holiday celebration.
Festive spirits received a further infusion of joy as a choir of fourth and fifth graders from Geronimo Road Elementary and Sheridan Road Elementary schools sang a medley of Christmas melodies. Later, a 77th U.S. Army Band brass quintet and a lively dance number from Picerne Military Housing's Jingle Bell Rockers contributed to the occasion.
Like many young Lawton-Fort Sill residents 4-year-old Jessie Burton, wearing a brilliant scarlet Santa hat, appeared intently focused on the arrival of one expected distinguished visitor. Until that person's arrival though, she kept close to her aunt and uncle, Susan and Sgt. 1st Class Wayne White, a 77th Army Band trumpet player.
"This all is pretty amazing, especially for Jessie, she's been talking all day about seeing Santa Claus and the Christmas lights," said Susan. "This happy, family time is what Christmas is all about."
Many a Soldier showed Army Strong is more than just a slogan as they perched their children on their shoulders to catch a glimpse of the festivities.
Maj. Tommy Cribbs, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery, held his daughter, Morgan, age 4, on high during their first Fort Sill tree lighting event. Like Jessie, Morgan also kept a watchful eye out for Santa.
About that time the clatter of horse hooves grabbed the attention of young and old alike as an escort of Field Artillery Half Section Soldiers led St. Nick to a rendezvous with Fryc.
The colonel gave a hearty hello to Santa Claus amid clapping and cheers from countless children in attendance. He then checked with the jolly elf to see where he stood on the Naughty or Nice List and whether or not any last-minute public relations work would be needed to improve his standing.
Showing Fort Sill hospitality to this most distinguished visitor, Fryc invited Claus to help with the lighting of the post Christmas tree. As tradition too often shows the best laid plans of men and power lines don't deliver the goods. Despite the help of two Fort Sill youngsters, an electrical switch to light the big evergreen tree failed. To make matters worse, the post's usual backup, a field artillery cannon, couldn't create the spark to illuminate the decorated tree either. Fortunately though, Fryc raced back to a vintage half-track air defense artillery vehicle and with precision Fires brought the golden glow of the holiday tree to the appreciation of all gathered.
The tree lighting seemed to re-energize the "sleigh-lagged" elf who decided to stick around post for the evening. Claus said manufacturing, logistics and transportation issues and concerns for his annual Christmas Eve deliveries could wait as he scanned a rapidly forming line of youngsters waiting to confer and negotiate terms with him.
Stepping into the warming tent, Claus found suitable accommodations and listened intently as many Sill children waited patiently to remind him how good they were this year.
"Fort Sill really rolled out the red carpet to make Mrs. Claus and I feel welcomed," he said. "I hope some of the treats they had in the warming tent, especially those cool Christmas trees kids decorated with icing and candies will be available on a plate with a glass of milk when I pass back through here in a couple weeks!"
Claus also liked how Nye Library donated tables of books, which Jill Manley, Nye program coordinator, gave away not only to children but to their parents as well.
"We always have such a good time at Fort Sill, seeing the Soldiers, Marines and Airmen who serve their families and country so selflessly," said Mrs. Claus. "And, we're absolutely delighted with the children here, they must have some great family readiness groups here because the children are so polite and friendly."
Back outside some contented families slipped away while others lingered for photos near the holiday tree.
Recent arrivals to Fort Sill, Sasha and Staff Sgt. William Parsons, 75th Fires Brigade, have extra reason to celebrate the holidays this year.
"This is the first Christmas I've been in country with my wife and son, and I'm really looking forward to our time together," he said.
The couple took turns holding their son, Liam, age 20 months, for photos near the tree until a passer-by offered to take a picture of the entire family together.
"Words can't describe how happy I am to have William home; Liam is 20 months old, and his dad has been gone 15 of those 20 months," said Sasha. "We cherish every moment we have together, because up until now we haven't had much time together."
That, too, will change as the sergeant understood he will be training Soldiers here and not heading down range for a while.
"I came here so I could settle down and be a father, and so far everything is just as I hoped it would be," he said.
Looking at Parsons and his family together, Claus said he enjoyed seeing families bonding during this time of the year.
However, duty called and he welcomed another ride from Half Section Soldiers who drove Claus and his wife to a secret location where his sleigh and reindeer team waited to whisk him back to the North Pole.