Children’s eyes were filled with wonder Thursday evening outside the III Corps headquarters as holiday songs accompanied the annual Fort Hood Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Trisha Smith brought her four sons — Zachary, 10, Adam, 8, Noah, 4, and Elijah, 2, all with red hair — to the tree lighting.

“I’m waiting for the lights to turn on,” Zachary said as the sun descended on the horizon.

The 1st Cavalry Division Band started off the festivities with an instrumental rendering of “Do You Hear What I Hear.”

Maj. Gen. J.T. Thomson, III Corps and Fort Hood deputy commanding general, joked about his singing voice, while encouraging those present to join in a chorus of “Jingle Bells.”

The Patriot Choir — third graders from Killeen’s Oveta Culp Hobby Elementary School — wore Santa hats as they sang “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “When the Lights All Shine”.

“It’s really an honor to be invited,” said Karen Williams, one of the Patriot Choir directors. “It’s a great experience for the children to have an audience that’s not their parents.”

Spc. Joselyn Taitt, originally from Florida, is spending her second Christmas at Fort Hood. She had the added joy of watching her daughter, Gianna Taitt, perform with the Patriot Choir.

Pfc. Derrick Miller let his inner child out for the occasion. “I want to get my picture taken with Santa,” he said.

Ava Leonovich, 11, was excited to be attending her third tree lighting at Fort Hood with her siblings, Emaline, 8, Mary Claire, 5, Konstantin, 3, and Louisa, 10 months. The girls wore matching red plaid skirts, and Louisa resembled a little wrapped present with her mother, Gretchen Leonovich.

Once Thomson lit the Christmas tree, the lights shone red, green and blue in the twilight as the crowd sang “O Christmas Tree.”

The tree itself was unique: a permanent fixture on the III Corps grounds, it was transformed into holiday mode by adding numerous strands of colored lights running from the ground to the star at its apex.

It was definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas when Santa Claus arrived riding on the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Detachment mule-drawn wagon.

A reception followed the ceremony in the headquarter’s east atrium, while Santa posed for photos with youngsters in the west atrium. | 254-501-7568

254-501-7568 |

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