The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way business is being conducted on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. On Wednesday, a time-honored tradition continued when JBM-HH Commander Col. Kimberly Peeples lit the installation’s Christmas tree.
The tree lighting ceremony began with a prayer from Chaplain (Col.) Joseph Fleury, the joint base chaplain.
“Let us pray for God’s blessing during this special season,” said Fleury. “Dear God, you are the Lord of the forest and the maker of all trees. May this tree be a living symbol and sign of peace and goodwill in our community.”
Peeples began her remarks by saying this is one of her favorite events of the year. She said the tree marks the beginning of the season, a season filled with hope, joy and Family, and a season that’s needed even more this year.
“The history of the Christmas tree traces back to another Army installation that I am very fond of just up the road, the Army’s oldest installation Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania,” said Peeples. “It is said that it was at Carlisle Barracks where the Hessens brought the holiday tree tradition to an American installation in the late 1800s. A tradition that installations carry on across the globe today.
“(A) special thanks to our director of public works for decorating the holiday tree this year, it really looks amazing.”
Peeples pointed out that this year has been a challenging year due to COVID-19, areas of increased threats, infrastructure concerns and other issues.
“We are resilient,” she said. “We care about this sacred mission and we care about each other. Thank you for your continued support to this garrison and all of the service providers that I represent here tonight.
“Thanks to this terrific technology that allows us to stay in contact with you and with your family and friends virtually. Let’s commit to stay connected this season and take time for what is truly important in this life — each other.”
Peeples added that individuals should reflect on this season and what it means to them and their Families.
“Let us also remember all the service men and women, especially those who are deployed serving our country,” Peeples said. “Tonight we are honored to remember Maj. Robert Saunders Gooch IV and his wonderful Family Leslie Ortega Gooch and his wonderful children Mia, Abby and Robert V. We remember Maj. Gooch and we are eternally grateful for his service and for the sacrifice and dedication of his Family.
“What a beautiful tree. While our special guest postponed his visit tonight, I can assure you that Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and Fort McNair are still on Santa’s schedule.”
Pentagram Editor Catrina Francis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally ran in the Pentagram on December 3, 2020.