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The Joint Base Lewis-McChord community came together at dusk Dec. 6 for the annual lighting of the Christmas tree, complete with festive traditions like singing, a visit from Santa, cookies and hot chocolate.
The event itself has been a JBLM tradition since 1985, and while the location of the Christmas tree has changed over the years, the meaning behind the tree lighting ceremony remains the same.
As we light the tree, it will symbolize the bright light of the future as we ring in the new year, Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, 7th Infantry Division commanding general, said in his remarks during the ceremony.
This is the second consecutive year that the 60-foot tall tree located at the corner of Division Street and Liggett Avenue was selected for the tree lighting ceremony.
The event opened with a concert by the Graceland Music Review, a youth group formed through the JBLM Child, Youth and School Services SKIES Unlimited instructional arts program.
The singing group featured just a fraction of the students involved in the music curriculum, but group leaders Julie Celleri and Tarana Graceland said there was a good reason for that.
Half of our families have had their family members come back from deployment this week, so this group was who could make it, Celleri said, referring to the students who were able to attend.
Lanza thanked the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and JBLM leadership for their work in organizing the event, and asked the crowd to call to mind those service members who are still deployed.
Id like everyone to remember those who are not with us today, the spouses who are deployed and those that continue to serve in harms way, Lanza said. Recognize them today as we celebrate this holiday season and everything that theyre doing as theyre deployed.
A special honor was given to Ethan Monka, 4, and his brother Austin, 3, when they were asked to help flip the switch to light the tree. Their parents, Sgt. Brandon Monka, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and his wife, Melanie, said this is the first year theyve attended the tree lighting ceremony.
I was deployed last year, and the year before that (Ethan and Austin) were too young, Brandon said. So this is the first year they could come out and really have some fun. They had a blast.
As the tree lit up with 4,000 lights, the crowd came alive with squeals and applause. The event concluded with a family reception at the Army Family Covenant Arena, where families were treated to refreshments and pictures with Santa.