FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Fort Leonard Wood leaders — with a little help from Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus — flipped the switch Tuesday evening at Joint Services Park, lighting the installation Christmas tree and signaling the start of the holiday season.
Besides lighting the tree, the event also provided an opportunity for the Fort Leonard Wood community to hear live holiday music performed by members of the 399th Army Band and learn the winner of the 2021 Cards to the Community contest. Each year, participants design and display four-by-eight foot wooden greeting cards at Joint Services Park. This year’s winner was the U.S. Army Engineer School.
With temperatures hovering just above the freezing point, Col. Sean Crockett, U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School commandant, spoke to the audience watching a live stream of the event on the Fort Leonard Wood Facebook page.
“This time of year is special to each and every one of us in very, very unique ways,” he said. “To my wife, Natalie, and I, it means friendship, family and, most importantly — maybe the last, but certainly not least — it means fellowship and finally, freedom. Freedom to enjoy your friends, your family and your fellowship during this time of year.”
Crockett — who spoke on behalf of Maj. Gen. James Bonner, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, and MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood Command Sgt. Maj. Randolph Delapena — also took time to acknowledge the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the importance of this day in 1941,” he said. “Our nation’s entry into the Pacific theater of World War II — we lost a lot of blood and treasure on that day, and it’s not something we in the military lose sight of. I think it’s important to realize and appreciate what we have, and the freedom that we have because of those men and women who have come before us, who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
After his remarks, Crockett — along with CBRN Regimental Chief Warrant Officer 3 Humphrey Hills and Regimental Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Williams — welcomed the post’s two visitors from the North Pole, who hitched a ride with the Fort Leonard Wood Fire Department to help light the 30-foot-tall tree.
In addition to the tree lighting, Fort Leonard Wood has more holiday events scheduled in the coming weeks.
The 399th Army Band is hosting a holiday concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Baker Theater. The concert will be live streamed on the Fort Leonard Wood Facebook page. Call 573.596.0686 for details.
Santa is also scheduled to hop aboard a Fort Leonard Wood firetruck to help with the annual Candy Cane Toss, which starts at 2 p.m. Dec. 20, and winds its way through on-post housing areas. When families hear sirens nearby, they are encouraged to come outside, say hello to Santa and pick up some candy canes. Visit the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation website for more information on this and other upcoming FMWR events.