News: Santa’s Castle holiday gift drive marches on
Story by Sgt. Mark Miranda
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD – A festive mood and Christmas music filled the air at Able Field, behind the headquarters building of the 555th Engineer Brigade. Soldiers gathering in their formations were decked out in bells, tinsel and Santa Claus hats. More than a few dressed as walking Christmas light displays with the help of battery units tucked into their backpacks. Dressed as elves and reindeer carried their unit guidons and positioned themselves as they awaited the order to march.
Approximately 1,500 soldiers and family members from the 555th Engineer Brigade marched across Joint Base Lewis McChord-North, Nov. 20, to donate holiday gifts for children of military families experiencing financial difficulty.
All locally-based subordinate battalions from the 555th Engineer Brigade took part in the three-mile march that began on Able Field and ended at the Northwest Adventure Center by American Lake. The march supported JBLM’s gift initiative, Santa’s Castle.
Since 1994, Santa’s Castle has provided gifts to the children of Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, activated National Guard and Reservist families experiencing financial difficulty throughout the Pacific Northwest.
“Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money for things, so I can appreciate what we’re doing today,” said Pfc. Cole Williams, 557th Engineer Company. “To be able to give back to the Army community is something I take personally.”
The truck leading the march from the brigade headquarters to the Northwest Adventure Center played holiday music through loudspeakers. Soldiers lined up to donate their toys, placing them into the backs of five-ton trucks as they arrived at their destination.
“I was watching the trucks fill up, and it looks like a lot of people will be helped out and that’s just another great memory I’ll have about this Christmas before my unit deploys,” said Spc. Joseph Nicholson, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 555th Eng. Bde.
Last year Santa’s Castle provided gifts to more than 2,300 children from approximately 980 military families.
“This is the third year I’ve done this, and I enjoy it,” said Spc. Karla Khaivilay, human resources specialist. “I feel like I’m helping out and bringing happiness to a child in a less fortunate situation, this is just an incredible feeling.”