Children gather around to help Brig. Gen. Darrell Jones, then the 37th Training Wing commander, throw the switch that powers the Christmas Tree lights.
Lackland Air Force Base, Texas —
A flip of an oversized switch illuminated more than 20,000 lights on the new 35-foot-tall base Christmas tree during the lighting ceremony Nov. 29.
"The lights and decorations call our attention to the joy of miracles, the promise of peace and the treasure of truth," Brig. Gen. Darrell Jones, 37th Training Wing commander, said as the sun disappeared during the 15-minute ceremony in front of the Gateway Club.
The perimeter of the front lawn was adorned with 23 four-foot-by-eight-foot plywood greeting cards created by units across the base.
"I loved all the cards, especially the ones dealing with deployments," said Chaplain (Maj.) Christy Sorrow, 37th TRW.
She went on to say the 314th Military Intelligence Battalion's card that depicts an Airman giving a Middle Eastern boy a gift was one of her favorites.
Santa arrived via fire truck at the conclusion of the ceremony and led the children into the club for snacks and a visit with the jolly old elf.
While outdoors, guests sang along to holiday music performed by the Band of the West's Gateway Brass ensemble.
The music continued indoors, switching over to the Southwest Winds Quintet, which delighted 1-year-old Jalen Vargas as he focused his attention on "conducting" the group.
Jalen is the son of Mosa and Staff Sgt. Jason Vargas, 37th Civil Engineer Squadron.
Jennifer Drury, while on a walking tour of the cards, said she was very pleased with the evening's event, citing the inclusion of the children in lighting the tree, a visit from Santa, and the availability of cookies and hot chocolate as beneficial "kid friendly" portions of the program.
Mrs. Drury is an Air Force wife of a deployed staff sergeant.
The new tree replaced the silhouette tree used in previous years. An additional section will be added to the tree next year, bringing the total height to 41 feet.
The tree, from Object Solution Inc. in Georgia, costs less than $30,000 and is reusable, according to Gerard Guajardo, 37th CES chief of service contracts.
The Air Force tree topper, created locally by Jam Designs, rang in at $2,400.
Elsewhere across base, the 54 street lamp decorations and the 1,900 bulbs in the 37th TRW headquarters building wreath and silhouette trees were also lit.
According to Staff Sgt. Payton Barnett, 37th CES, CE logged 760 man hours planning and installing all the decorations.