Lt. Gen. Sean C. Bernabe, III Armored Corps and Fort Cavazos commanding general, smiles at Mariah Fletcher, 5, with Joseph Brooks, 8, looking on, after successfully lighting the tree during the annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony Dec. 1. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
Lt. Gen. Sean C. Bernabe, III Armored Corps and Fort Cavazos commanding general, smiles at Mariah Fletcher, 5, with Joseph Brooks, 8, looking on, after successfully lighting the tree during the annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony Dec. 1. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — Dozens of families and members of the Fort Cavazos community gathered around the flagpole Dec. 1 at III Armored Corps Headquarters to ring in the holiday season during the annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony here.

After being led in the Christmas carol “Jingle Bells” by members of the 1st Cavalry Division Band, the crowd listened to Chaplain (Col.) Luis Kruger, garrison chaplain, as he spoke on the importance of holidays.

“The holidays are holy days,” he said. “The current Webster’s dictionary states that a holy day is a day set aside for special religious observances. … The Army sets apart certain days this month and next month because it is a special time of the year. Our nation, communities and military desire for us to make the most of the holy days.”

He encouraged everyone to share love with one another and make the holidays holy days for their families.

The 50-foot-tall tree is made up of 9,000 lightbulbs and stands in front of III Armored Corps Headquarters. (U.S. Army photo by Monty Campbell, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
The 50-foot-tall tree is made up of 9,000 lightbulbs and stands in front of III Armored Corps Headquarters. (U.S. Army photo by Monty Campbell, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

“Set apart time to show kindness, forgiveness and a generous spirit of giving,” he said. “Do this because the wise men once said, ‘Life is like a vapor. You don’t know what a day may bring forth, but we should recognize the brevity of life. It is up to you to make the holidays holy days for you and your family.”

After Kruger’s speech, the Meadows Elementary School Choir performed two songs bringing laughter and smiles to the crowd before Lt. Gen. Sean C. Bernabe, III Armored Corps and Fort Cavazos commander, welcomed the attendees and thanked the many organizations that made the tree lighting possible. This included the Fort Cavazos Directorate of Public Works and Dominion Energy who Bernabe was able to watch set up the tree leading up to the ceremony.

“It’s an impressive thing,” he stated. “I think it took 10 cherry picker trucks to build it this year. There’s clearly a lot of science that goes into it and a lot of art. (There’s) 9,000

lightbulbs, it’s 50-foot tall and we’re about to see it in all its glory.”

During his speech, he admitted that he and the command team were out of uniform, before switching his patrol cap for a “Phantom Blue” Santa hat in the III Armored Corps blue instead of the staple red color.

Santa, escorted by members of the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Detachment, waves to attendees Dec. 1.  (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Santa, escorted by members of the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Detachment, waves to attendees Dec. 1. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre) VIEW ORIGINAL
Children in the Meadows Elementary School Choir sing a song to entertain the crowd at the Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony Dec. 1. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Children in the Meadows Elementary School Choir sing a song to entertain the crowd at the Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony Dec. 1. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre) VIEW ORIGINAL
Santa speaks to families and poses for photos Dec. 1 in the East Atrium of the III Armored Corps Headquarters. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Santa speaks to families and poses for photos Dec. 1 in the East Atrium of the III Armored Corps Headquarters. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre) VIEW ORIGINAL

Then he introduced the two children who had been randomly selected from families who live in Cavalry Family Housing, who nominated them. Mariah Fletcher, 5, and Joseph Brooks, 8, were the lucky two chosen to pull the switch alongside Bernabe to light the tree.

Brandy Brooks, Joseph’s mom, said that her husband, who recently deployed, nominated Joseph without letting them know and

she was surprised when she was told Joseph had been selected.

She said it was an honor for her son to be a part of such a longstanding tradition at the Great Place.

“Not to sound cheesy, but it’s the Great Place, it really is,” she said. “It’s been a blessing to our family just to live in post housing. The neighborhood is great and it’s just an honor to be chosen.”

After Bernabe, Fletcher and Brooks pulled the candy cane switch lighting the tree, Santa was escorted in by the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Detachment on their wagon to conclude the event. Children swarmed the wagon and followed Santa into the III Armored Corps Headquarters where he spoke to them all and posed for photos.