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Oh, Christmas tree: Event kicks off holiday season

Soldiers and their families gather around the newly-lit Christmas tree during this year’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Howze Field Dec. 4. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Soldiers and their families gather around the newly-lit Christmas tree during this year’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Howze Field Dec. 4. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: December 11, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (December 11, 2014) -- Fort Rucker officially kicked off the holiday season with its annual tree lighting ceremony at Howze Field Dec. 4.

Hundreds helped to usher in the holiday season and enjoy an evening of complimentary hot chocolate, caroling and lighting of the Christmas tree.

“For well over 20 years, the Fort Rucker community has officially sounded the bell of ringing in the Christmas season with this special event,” said Mike Kozlowski, Army Community Service employment readiness manager, emcee and honorary elf for the event.

Maj. Gen. Michael D. Lundy, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, was also on hand to help ring in the season and wish everyone a safe and happy holiday, and to remind people to continue to show support for those who aren’t here to celebrate with us.

“I appreciate everyone coming out and I really want to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, but, more importantly, I want to thank all of our Fort Rucker community, our Soldiers, our families, our Department of Army civilians and the great community that supports us here,” he said. “You’ve got a lot to be thankful for and this is a time that we can reflect on that. I would also ask everyone to keep the families of Soldiers who are deployed, as well as the Soldiers who are deployed in your thoughts and prayers. This is a tough time of year for them and they need our support as we move forward.”

The evening kicked off with the joyful sounds of Christmas carols sung by the Fort Rucker Child, Youth and School Services and Child Development Center choirs; the Girl Scout Choir from Troops 9272, 9395 and 9171; and the Post Chapel Choir, who sang holiday favorites, such as “Jingle Bells,” “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” “Silent Night” and “Joy To The World.”

“I thought the evening was a great way to start the holiday season,” said Geoff Mason, retired military. “I was able to bring my family out, get some hot chocolate and just enjoy a nice little celebration to make it really start to feel like it’s Christmas.”

“It’s nice to see that Fort Rucker cares enough to host something like this, and honor military families and show that they actually care,” added Mason’s wife, Cathy. “It makes you feel like part of a real community here.”

Following the caroling, there was an awards presentation for the best ornaments that were put on the tree. The tree was adorned with many handcrafted ornaments submitted by Fort Rucker children. The ones that were the most creative and festive were chosen as winners and their creators were presented with gift baskets.

This year’s winners were: Thad Blake, 3-5 year-old winner; Olivia Palfreeman, 6-8 year-old winner; and Madeline Webster, 9-11 year-old winner.

In addition to the ornament contest winners, the Fort Rucker Family of Excellence Award was handed out to the King family: W01 William King, his wife, Mindy, and two children, Michael and William.

“Each year, we take time to honor a Fort Rucker family that has distinguished themselves through their outstanding example of service to our community,” said Kozlowski.  “It has been said many times that military families are the backbone of our military fighting force, and the family I’m about to introduce to you is no exception.

“This Soldier and his family has an impeccable record of over nine years of service, having been deployed to combat three times prior to arriving at Fort Rucker,” he continued. “His wife, (Mindy), a military retiree, has held the family together on the home front for almost seven years.”

The family was presented a gift basket and was given the honor of lighting the Christmas tree to officially ring in the season.

After the presentations and a little more caroling, the merrymakers on hand were surprised with a special visit from Santa Claus, who came with his elves to give out candy canes and ask children what they wanted for Christmas. But before people headed home, Lundy asked for everyone to make sure to take care of themselves and their families this holiday season.

“I wish all of you a blessed holiday and a Merry Christmas,” he said. “We need you all back after the holiday season because every one of you is important to this community, so take care and be safe as you enjoy the season.”

This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/139848/

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