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JBLM tree lights up Gig Harbor

A strong bond makes the holiday season extra bright

The Gig Harbor Public Works Operations team loads the Christmas tree from a JBLM training area in preparation for the annual Gig Harbor Holiday Tree Lighting. Photo credit: Kristi Berry

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For nearly two decades, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) has gifted the city of Gig Harbor with a Christmas tree. Each year, Gig Harbor works with its partner unit, the 201st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, to select and cut a Douglas fir to take center stage for its holiday festivities.

This collaborative tradition starts in October when JBLM officials determine the training area and trees available for selection. A city delegate then walks the forest with the 201st Public Affairs officer in search of the perfect tree.

"It's harder than you might think to find the right tree," said Terri Garrison, Gig Harbor public works assistant. "We look for a tree that's full on all sides without any large bare spots. It also has to be narrow enough to be transported on the interstate."

When the Public Works team comes back in November to cut the tree, it's an impressive operation complete with a ladder, ropes, chain saw, crane and flat-bed truck. Brigade and city representatives each take a ceremonial axe chop before the tree is felled with a chain saw. A crane then carefully lifts the tree onto a truck to be driven to Gig Harbor's Skansie Brothers Park where it's adorned with hundreds of lights.

The tree-gifting tradition is just one of many ways the 201st EMIB and Gig Harbor work together. Their partnership began in 2000 and is the longest running community connection on post.

"We have a great relationship with Gig Harbor. It allows us to introduce the community to soldiers and give residents a greater understanding of what soldiers do and how they serve the area," said 201st Brigade CSM Jose Melendez. "It also gives soldiers the opportunity to get to know their neighbors and provides volunteer opportunities."

This holiday season, 201st soldiers are collecting food items to donate to the Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH Food Bank and Community Services for distribution to families in need. Throughout the year, they also speak at schools, provide color guards for parades and compete in the Gig Harbor Paddlers Cup Dragon Boat Race. To say thank you, Gig Harbor hosts an annual Military Appreciation Day for 201st soldiers and their families.

To see this special tree light up the night, head to the 2018 Gig Harbor Holiday Tree Lighting Saturday, Dec. 1, from 5-7 p.m. at Skansie Brothers Park. The festive event features live music, refreshments and a visit from Santa on a fire truck.

2018 Gig Harbor Holiday Tree Lighting, 5-7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, Skansie Brothers Park, 3207 Harborview Dr., Gig Harbor,

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