News: USARAK, JBER light up holiday season
Story by Staff Sgt. Matthew Winstead
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Soldiers and airmen kicked off the holidays at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson with a concert and tree lighting in front of the U.S. Army Alaska headquarters building Dec. 1.
JBER Outdoor Recreation coordinated the event with help from members of the military commands on the installation. Outside volunteer sponsorship helped fund the celebration, according to JBER Outdoor Recreation Director Rebecca Bull, who has helped coordinate the annual event for the past 13 years.
Cheri Terhorst and Michelle Wilkins, representing local sponsors, distributed flyers and candy-filled stockings at the door of the post theater and provided cookies and hot cocoa for the children.
“We’re happy to assist and show our support for the troops in any way that we can,” Terhorst said.
U.S. Air Force Col. Robert D. Evans, JBER and 673rd Air Base Wing commander, thanked those responsible for making the event happen and fired up the crowd by asking the children in the theater if they had been good for Santa.
Evans passed the microphone to Maj. Gen. Raymond Plaumbo, U.S. Army Alaska commander, who expressed his thanks on the behalf of USARAK and followed up with news that excited the crowd even more.
“Now after the music, I want you to grab your parents, and we’re going to go outside and across the street and turn on that tree, because we want to make sure Santa sees us and lands here,” Palumbo said.
The Air Force Band of the Pacific “Greatlanders” played traditional Christmas carols and even a few with a modern jazz sound to them, as families listened and sang along.
After the concert, the crowd moved outside to the base of a large tree in front of USARAK headquarters where Palumbo invited all the children to come help him light the tree.
With a 3, 2, 1 countdown, the lights on the tree sprung to life, and a team of reindeer pulled a sleigh to the base of the tree for family members to take photos with Santa.
Children played on the snow as they waited to tell the man in red what they wanted for Christmas and to explain certain events over the course of the year which might produce coal instead of toys.
“This has been great. I’m really glad I got to do this before I deployed,” said Spc. Michael White, an Army parachute rigger with the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, as his family waited for photos with Santa. His wife Brittini and four children: daughter Kylee and sons Trenton, Ian and Tyler all clung to him as they inched toward the sleigh.