MCAS BEAUFORT, S.C. --
Several hundred service members and their families gathered in front of the Laurel Bay seven-day store to take part in the festivities of the 20th Annual Commanding Officer’s Tree Lighting Ceremony Wednesday evening.
Parents and kids alike braved the chilly weather while sipping hot cocoa waiting for the 60-foot tree to light the sky and of course the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus.
“This is a great tradition in the Tri-Command area,” said Beth Huston, the Air Station’s Marine Corps Community Services coordinator. “It’s just a great way to kick-off the holidays.”
The evening started with the National Anthem and then remarks by Col. Gregg Brinegar, the Marine Aircraft Group 31 commanding officer, followed by Col. John Snider, the Air Station’s commanding officer.
“As we light this tree tonight, I ask that we remember those Marines and sailors around the world who are celebrating the holidays their own special way,” Brinegar said to the crowd. “Remember those service members and their families this holiday season.”
Following the commanders’ remarks, students from each of the Laurel Bay schools sang four Christmas carols to get the crowd ready for the lighting of the tree. After their selections, the area was darkened and several children were invited to join both commanders to count the seconds down before the tree was lit. When the countdown concluded, approximately 1,500 lights on the 60-foot tree shone brightly.
The crowd had a brief moment to take in the beauty of the tree before the loud sirens of a fire truck were heard. Like every year, Santa and Mrs. Claus made their appearance in style – arriving in one of the Air Station’s Structural Fire Department’s trucks.
The event concluded with the crowd enjoying some holiday music from the Parris Island Marine Corps band and with kids lining up to tell Santa and Mrs. Claus what they wanted for Christmas.
“This event helps bring the Tri-Command Community together,” Snider said. “It was a great evening that really set the stage for the holiday season.”
“Everything was fantastic,” Huston said. “A lot of people put a huge amount of work to make this evening a success. I can’t thank them all enough for the hard work.”