The night air was a bit chilly as families began to gather on Howze Field for the holiday tradition of lighting the Fort Rucker Christmas tree on Thursday, Dec. 5. Each year the event provides an outdoor holiday experience where soldiers, families and the local community can join together to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season.

Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, hosted the event and the ornament contest winners assisted in lighting the tree.

After a welcome given by Michael Kozlowski dressed an an elf and the invocation given by Chaplain (Maj.) Jonathan Smith, the crowd was treated to several songs by various groups and organizations.

Maj. Gen. Francis gave a holiday greeting encouraging everyone to take advantage of the holiday season. He then presented awards to the Fort Rucker MWR Christmas ornament contest winners.

“We hope you take time this season to spend time with your families and all of those things that are most important to recharge yourselves spiritually and physically. Take advantage of this special time of year,” Maj. Gen. Francis said. “It is truly important that we honor the service and sacrifice of not just all of our soldiers but their family members, too, who also serve alongside with us.”

The winners of the ornament making contest were Kat DeVaney, age 3; Rhaegen McLean, age 6; and Aubriauna Sweeting, age 11.

Closing remarks were made by Kozlowski. Daleville’s Pride of the South marching band performed a rousing rendition of “Here Comes Santa Claus” while the crowd sang to prelude the arrival of Santa.

The children cheered Santa’s arrival and everyone was invited to The Landing for photos with Santa.

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