As nights grow colder with winter around the corner, Soldiers, staff and families welcomed the holiday season during William Beaumont Army Medical Center's annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony, Dec. 6.

More than 100 guests joined WBAMC's Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care countdown the lighting of the approximately three-story tall pine, which is positioned in the courtyard outside of WBAMC's Alexis St. Martin Dining Facility.

Guests were treated to a unique holiday-dinner, hot beverages and snacks, while holiday music accompanied a reading of the origins of holiday trees and welcoming remarks by Col. Erik Rude, WBAMC commander.

"(The Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony) has turned into a wonderful event," said Rude, discussing the growth of the occasion.

During the ceremony, entertainment was provided with performances by the Terrace Hills Middle School Choir, a WBAMC Partners in Education (PIE) sponsored school while musical fill in was supplied by Mario Monteros on keyboard.

In keeping with tradition, an ornament dedicated to over 20 WBAMC Soldiers currently deployed was revealed and placed on the tree by Rude and his wife. The ornament consists of a custom-made wreath with a lighted clear ball-shaped ornament in the center. Also on the ornament are etchings of the deployed locations of WBAMC Soldiers, which include locations in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and across Europe.

"This ornament represents our continued support for our Soldiers and their families as we await their return home," said Amabilia Payen, WBAMC public affairs officer who narrated the event.

At the conclusion of the ornament hanging, the audience cheered on the arrival of the night's special guest, "Santa Claus," as a luminously-lit sleigh traveled down the street escorted by police from the neighboring El Paso VA Healthcare System. A countdown ignited the Holiday Tree with various lights and ornaments to end the night.