Sentinel commentary -- With the lighting of the Christmas trees at Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem this week, the installations have officially entered the holiday season. Bright lights and festive decorations can be seen throughout the posts, welcoming the arrival of holiday cheer and spirit. Here on our installations, such emotions can be bittersweet because this is the last holiday season we'll share before closure.

Nevertheless, no matter what the next year may bring, getting together for Christmas, Muharram (Islamic New Year), Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule (Wiccan Winter Soltice), Lohri (Hindu end of winter) or a atheistic gathering of friends and loved ones to celebrate life and this year's memories is an opportunity that should be taken advantage of by everyone.

By keeping our focus on the spirit of the holidays, we can all get the most out of this special time. Now is the time to start picking up the phone or writing that e-mail message to let the people we care about know how much they mean to us.

It has been an eventful, testing and historic year for the armed forces and the nation; there are more than enough reasons to appreciate the bonds of family and friendship this season.

As for those of us who have lost loved ones this year, now is an appropriate time to remember and pay tribute to those who have passed. So go ahead; make the effort and reach out.

You may be surprised to find out how happy someone is to hear from you. Another way to make this holiday one to remember is by giving to others.

Installation programs like Operation Gift - which collects toys for children in need - are in full effect, as are various religious and secular programs.

Whether through money, items or time, giving to others not only represents the best of the holiday season, but can also bring personal fulfillment. Explore available options to find the best giving opportunity.

Remember, the difference between those who give help and those who need it is not as vast as it can initially appear.

Finally, no matter wherever you are or whatever you do this season; please be safe in all of endeavors. As with any Family, the Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem Family works best when everyone is safe, healthy and whole.

By embodying the best of spirit and cheer, we can make this a truly special holiday season for Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem.