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JBLM ushers in the holiday season

Tree lighting and party a success

Santa’s helpers (from left) Morgyn Douglas, 9, Amya Flores, 10, Kymora Benson, 10, and Anthony Jones, 7, are all smiles after handing out candy canes during the annual JBLM Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony on Lewis Main Tuesday. (JBLM PAO photo)

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The brisk evening air didn’t detract from the warmth felt ‘round the Christmas tree Tuesday as hundreds gathered in front of Jensen Family Health and Fitness Center for Lewis Main’s annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony — the first of three official Joint Base Lewis-McChord tree lighting events.

Additional holiday tree lighting ceremonies include: Madigan Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting Ceremony at Madigan Medical Mall Friday at 2 p.m. and McChord Field Holiday Tree and Menorah Lighting Ceremony at the McChord Field Chapel Support Center Monday at 4 p.m.

“One, two, three, light the tree,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, I Corps commanding general, as he and a small flock of children prepared to plug in the lights on the giant evergreen.

“The lighting of a tree is a great tradition,” Lanza said, sharing the tale of Thomas Edison’s first patriotic-lit red, white and blue decorated tree “back in 1882.”

Lanza expressed the importance of community gatherings, such as the Lewis Main tree lighting.

“Look at the families and communities coming together; it solidifies how important families are to our nation,” he said.

Lanza also spoke to the crowd about the country’s thousands of service members deployed overseas.

“Remember them and the good they are doing and that they don’t get to be with their families. Remember them in your prayers,” he said.

That sentiment hit home for many in the crowd, including Janette Catahan, whose husband, Spc. Jermarjo Catahan, 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, is deployed in Afghanistan. Catahan attended the tree lighting with her children, Kalea, 7, and Joshua, 6, and their 7-year-old friend, Elizabeth Sprott.

Although all three of the children hoped to get LEGO toys for Christmas, Kalea and Joshua said their most important request of Santa is to “keep daddy safe.”

“When they turned on the lights, I just wanted to cry,” Catahan said.

She said the turnout of the JBLM community for the event was a blessing.

“My husband is not here, but the whole community is here to celebrate Christmas,” she said.

Military spouse Edi Rivera also expressed appreciation for the tree lighting ceremony while her husband is deployed overseas. The family moved to JBLM a year ago from Puerto Rico.

Rivera’s children, Edielys, 8, Isabell, 3, and 1-year-old Isaac waited excitedly in line to see Santa Claus after the giant tree was lit. A fire engine and a sleigh led by a faux Rudolph arrived shortly after the ceremony, carrying the red-suited Kris Kringle.

“I like Christmas because it’s happy, and you get together with family,” Edielys said, adding she is looking forward to decorating her home for the holidays.

In addition to enjoying hot chocolate and a visit from Santa at the ceremony, many of the revelers descended on Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s Fest Tent for some additional frivolity. There, a variety of tables were set up with crafts, food and fun activities.

Ten-year-old twins, Lena and Nola Hiort lined up with their friend, Layla Barragan, to get balloon animals from balloon twister, George Magician of Edmonds.

The three Chambers Elementary school students from Lacey and Layla’s mom, Suzy Barragan, who accompanied the children to the event, each said they were excited for the holidays and enjoyed the Christmas carols sung by a strolling group of carolers in 19th-century garb.

Another fun element of the event was a spirited performance by a young actor from “The Nutcracker,” which promoted JBLM’s SKIES Unlimited’s upcoming production of the holiday ballet. Cast members were on hand at Family and MWR’s Fest Tent to sell tickets for the performances, taking place at the Evergreen Theater Dec. 9 and 10.

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