III Corps and Fort Hood kicked off the holiday season with the annual Christmas tree lighting Friday afternoon.

Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commanding general for III Corps and Fort Hood, welcomed families and their loved ones for the traditional celebration in front of the III Corps Headquarters.

“This tree will serve as a reminder of the beauty of our world and will be the focal point of our community throughout the season,” he said. “This is also a way to represent and remember all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are walking a lonely post tonight for our freedom.”

Funk flipped the switch to light up the tree for the season with his grandson, Jack Brown, and two little helpers. The Christmas tree is decorated in patriotic colors of red, white and blue.

“When we are home we want to celebrate in a big way, and when we are away we are thinking of our families at home,” he said.

While many military families won’t be able to spend the holidays together with their loved ones, Funk reminded the community to make the shared moments even more special.

“For all of us blessed to be home with our families this year, take the time to enjoy the moments with your loved ones,” he said.

The Ellison Chamber Singers as well as the Oveta Culp Elementary Hobby Choir and Meadows Elementary Honor Choir performed Christmas carols just before sunset to bring holiday cheer to the community.

Janel Deckera visited the ceremony with her three-month-old son Oliver and was happy to take part in the holiday celebrations.

“It’s great that they … get the kids involved in everything,” she said. “This is something that can bring us all together and show what the military does.”

After the lighting of the tree, Santa Claus made a grand entrance on his wagon led by horses from the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Detachment.

Following the ceremony, families were able to take pictures with Santa and enjoy refreshments inside the III Corps Headquarters.

The tree will be on display until Jan. 6.

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