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Madigan’s young shine a light

Guest speaker Jasmhier and her parents, Richard and Marmeelita, pose in front of the tree with Santa at Madigan Army Medical Center’s annual Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting Ceremony on Dec. 9. Photo credit: John Wayne Liston

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MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord - Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, has inspiring patients. One of its youngest proved that light shines brightly, however dark the winter season, at the annual Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting Ceremony on Dec. 9.

Ten-year-old Jasmhier and her family started their journey while on vacation in the Philippines when a pain in her knee made her limp.

They returned to their permanent assignment location of South Korea to address whatever it was that was causing Jasmhier issues. Within a week, they were in the state of Washington for care and treatment for osteosarcoma, a rare and aggressive childhood cancer.

In the short handful of months Jasmhier and her family have been dealing with her diagnosis and all that it has entailed, including a life-altering and radical amputation surgery known as rotationplasty.

Jasmhier's mom and dad are in awe of her maturity and positivity. She asked to speak at the lighting ceremony. Each year, one of Madigan's special young patients is asked to help the commander light the tree and Menorah. None of them speak at the ceremony, however.

Jasmhier impressed the crowd gathered on the first floor of the Medical Mall for the ceremony, just as she has her parents and care team with her positive outlook and enduring hope.

She and her family have also been impressed by the top notch care they have received at Madigan, especially from the pediatric and orthopedic departments. They speak of the challenges they have faced with gratitude for the swiftness with which the Army has assisted them in accessing the care Jasmhier has needed.

Jasmhier, offering words she wrote on her own, started by thanking her care team.

"First, I would like to thank the people that gave me this opportunity to light this year's Christmas tree with Col. Taylor, and I would like to say thank you so much to Doctor Pavey's team, Doctor Lindberg, Doctor Forouhar, and Doctor Leuw's team, 4 North and PICU East, physical therapists, chaplains and all the medical staff and social workers that work here," said Jasmhier.

With the poise of a seasoned public speaking veteran, Jasmhier shared her thoughts with the audience.

"But, before Col. Taylor and I press this switch, I want to tell you this story," she continued. "When I had one of my worst pains after my surgery, one of my nurses gave me this flashlight."

Jasmhier showed those listening the little penlight that she carried to the podium with her.

"The flashlight made me busy, happy, calm and hopeful. The flashlight showed there is still light even in the dark times, and people who help us that have a wonderful light in them. So as these lights shine as we press this switch, it will show the joy and the hope of this hospital in the coming years, just like the flashlight," she concluded.

Following her thoughtful words, few had dry eyes as Jasmhier and the commander lit the tree and Menorah to shine throughout the holiday season.

Each year, this ceremony includes a recounting of the history and meaning of the Christmas tree, as shared by Spc. Trinity Leland, a religious affairs specialist in Madigan's Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care, which hosted the ceremony.

She established the common theme of rejoicing in light during this season that is worldwide. From lantern festivals in the Philippines to the Indian celebration of Diwali to the winter solstice and Kwanzaa, all make light a central theme. Bringing an evergreen tree and adding lights to it simply follows this tradition.

The aptly named Leslie Bright, the Jewish faith representative on JBLM, added details on Hanukkah, the festival of lights, to this collection of celebrations.

"In faiths throughout the world, there's the power in a metaphor - the imagery of light," Bright said.

In the ancient Holy Land, a small band of believers held fast to their beliefs in the face of a powerful army attempting to force them to change their beliefs and customs. After driving a mighty enemy from their lands, they reclaimed their temple and watched in awe as a night's worth of oil miraculously lasted eight nights, until reinforcements came.

While not one of the Jewish faith's major holidays, it is an important one, Bright noted, as it celebrates the resilience of the faithful.

Hanukkah begins on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 18 and ends on the evening of Monday, Dec. 26.

CH (Maj.) Jeff Pyun, the deputy hospital chaplain, and Father Alexander Ramos, Madigan's Catholic priest, gave details on significance of the Advent in the Christian faith, as symbolized by the Advent wreath.

Advent lasts the four weeks leading up to Christmas and is often represented by wreaths displayed in homes and parishes that have five candles, one lit each Sunday with the last lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. These candles symbolize, in succession - hope, love, joy and peace, with the final one being in honor of the Christ child as the religion's savior.

A definite highlight of the season for many children closed out the festivities - a visit from Santa!

Jasmhier was first to get her picture taken with the jolly man in red. She also shared a short poem she wrote during her initial chemotherapy treatment.

"I am a dog who's stuck in a bog. I thought there's no way out until I saw the log." - Jasmhier

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