JBER lights up for the holidays

Tree lighting ensures a safe landing for Santa


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Service members and families gather in front of the U.S. Army Alaska headquarters building Dec. 1 at the JBER holiday tree lighting ceremony.

U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Matthew Winstead

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 military commands on the installation and volunteers.

“We’re happy to assist and show our support for the troops in any way that we can,” said volunteer Cheri Terhorst.

JBER and 673d Air Base Wing Commander, Air Force Col. Robert Evans, 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 USARAK Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Raymond Plaumbo, who expressed his thanks on the behalf of USARAK.

“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, 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.

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