tree lighting.jpgU.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson Commanding General Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Michaelis and students from C.C. Pinckney Elementary School choir flip the switch to officially light the tree during the annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony. The ceremony took place at Fort Jackson's Patriots Park Dec. 3, 2021. (Photo Credit: Alexandra Shea)

By Alexandra Shea, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

Fort Jackson’s Patriots Park was alive with activity Dec. 3 as the annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony began as the sun set.

“As we illuminate this tree, we will celebrate the joy of the season,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Ronnie Irwin as he delivered the ceremonies invocation. “Bless our military families and the entire Fort Jackson community.”

To further build the holiday season vibes, students from C.C. Pinckney Elementary School’s choir performed several songs to the audience of over 200.

As the songs came to an end, Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Michaelis, Fort Jackson commanding general, invited the students to stay to help light the tree.

“I’ve got the switch to the tree right here,” Michaelis said. “I’m going to need all of you to help with the countdown and hitting this switch.”

Michaelis gave his thanks to the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, Garrison Commander Col. Ryan Hanson, Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. R. Cesar Duran, and the 282nd Army Band for their combined help to make the ceremony a success.

“In this brief turning on of the lights, it represents so much hope and dreams of all these young men and women that are standing in front of me,” Michaelis said. “The holiday season is a time of joy and fellowship and I want to thank you all for being here today.”

“Let’s go ahead and light this tree,” he said as he crouched down with the students.

“Five, four, three, two, one,” everyone shouted as the switch was flipped and the tree began to glow, the band playing “Oh Christmas Tree” in the background.

All stood back to admire the tree and adjoining decorations as the far off sound of a firetruck grew louder, children scrambled to the sidewalk on Strom Thurmond Boulevard to get a better look as they knew Santa Clause was arriving.

“Ho, Ho, Ho,” Santa shouted as he was helped out of the Fort Jackson Fire Department truck, escorted by a fire fighter. He shouted “Merry Christmas,” to the children as he passed by giving high-fives.

After being greeted by Michaelis, Clause joined his wife in a set of gilded chairs to begin greeting the children one by one. A photographer took pictures of the children as they met the Clause’.

After Soldiers and their Families filed through the Santa meet and greet, they traveled to Marion Street Station to view the Liberty Lights display. The final event of the evening was free of charge for the evening.

Attendees walked through a series of patriotic light displays as Christmas music played in the background. Several Families stopped to get photos and selfies at the iconic Army star logo.

“We really enjoyed it,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brian Washington Sr., a drill sergeant assigned to the 369th Adjutant General Battalion. “I am happy to be here to cherish these moments with my Family.”