By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterDecember 14, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Music is a staple of the holiday season, and hundreds were treated to the sounds of the season by the Maneuver Center of Excellence Band Dec. 11.
People came from all over Fort Rucker and the surrounding communities to fill Fort Rucker's post theater for the Commanding General's Holiday Concert where they were treated to holiday classics, got a chance to sing along to familiar carols and had the chance to meet a special visitor from the North Pole.
Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, was among those in attendance and said music holds a special place in peoples' hearts.
"I can think of no better way to bring in the holidays than with music," said the commanding general following the concert. "It's the music that gets everybody thinking about this time of year and how special it is."
Throughout the night, attendees were treated to classics like, "O Come All ye Faithful," "Silent Night," "Deck the Halls" and "Jingle Bells," as well as more contemporary and pop versions of some crowd favorites, including Bruce Springsteen's version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," with an appearance from the man in red, himself.
To close the concert, students from the Fort Rucker Elementary School, as well as those from Enterprise's Pinedale and Harrand Creek Elementary schools were invited up to the stage to sing along with the MCOE band in a night that had many feeling the spirit of the season.
"This, in my opinion, really is the best way to get into the spirit of Christmas," said Jeremy Draper, Enterprise resident. "There's nothing else that makes it feel more like Christmas than Christmas music. I'm always listening to Christmas music way before I probably should be, but to be able to hear it in a live setting like this really is something special."
For Michelle Hawkins, military spouse, and her family, it's about getting to share special moments and memories together.
"I really like that we can be here for something like this," she said. "It's nice to come out with the family and get this time together with something I know the kids will remember. This has gotten them, and me, really excited for Christmas, so I was glad to be able to bring them out."
Although the concert is meant to help ring in the holidays, it's also a time to remember those who aren't able to be around for the holiday season, said Gayler.
"Tonight, right now, we have about 180,000 United States Army Soldiers somewhere in the world -- not here, not with their families -- somewhere forward stationed," he said. "I ask that you please keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers.
"I also want to recognize -- and these are always hard -- the sacrifice of our Gold Star Families," the commanding general continued. "This time of year is tough and we're reminded of it when you sit here with your families. It brings home the love of this time of year and there are those who have sacrificed so much. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers, as well."
For members of the MCOE Band, it's concerts like these that make what they do worth all the hours of preparation and rehearsal worth the work they put in, said Capt. Aaron Morris, MCOE Band commander.
"The holiday season is a special time of year, a time of which we all have personalized memories of either our childhood and the mystery of Santa Claus, our cherished time with friends and family gathered around the tree, or a spiritual reverence for the days that are the cornerstone of faith," he said. "Within these memories, I'm certain that music has been a special part of each of our experiences. So, tonight, the MCOE band and I are happy to share some of the holiday classics that we have all come to know and love.
"For us, we deeply cherish evenings like this when we have an opportunity to all come together with a shared purpose and unity to celebrate and enjoy each other's company," the band commander continued. "With all of the headlines we see day to day, opportunities like tonight may seem increasingly rare. Let tonight be a reminder to us all -- regardless of where we are from, or what or how we choose to celebrate, we do it best together."