By Audrey Spencer
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD - A lighted Christmas tree will be one of the first things returning soldiers will see when they arrive in the Robert Gray Army Airfield terminal this holiday season.
"This is where every soldier leaves and comes back for deployments," said Sherwood Brame, installation adjutant general and directorate of human resources at Robert Gray Army Airfield. "This definitely adds a flavor of holiday spirit. When they come back, it's one of the first things they'll see to know they're back home."
The 7-foot-tall artificial tree, pre-lit with multi-colored lights, is the first Christmas tree allowed in the terminal.
Seven volunteers decorated the tree Saturday with yellow ribbons, symbolic of supporting America's troops, ball ornaments and 25 handmade stockings made from old Army uniforms.
Bonnie Olsen, a five-year airfield volunteer, asked an Army surplus store on base to save old uniforms for her for a year.
The uniforms and a stocking pattern were sent to Carole Nelson of Green Bay, Wis., a friend of Olsen's. Nelson made 450 stockings with the materials. Of those, 25 were used on and near the Christmas tree at the airfield. The other 425 stockings were filled and sent to the 432nd National Guard in Afghanistan.
The process of getting approval to set up the Christmas tree in the terminal took a year. "A/DACG (Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group) is the one who finally gave us permission to put up the tree. We just had to wait to find out where we could put it," said Olsen.
She was inspired to start making efforts when she heard a young soldier ask why the airfield couldn't have a Christmas tree.
"I don't know what it was last year, but I couldn't get that kid's face out of my head," said Olsen. "I talked to Mr. Brame, and he had to talk to the higher-ups in control of the airfield. We wanted to do something to put a glow in another person's heart."
The tree was donated by John Footman, a Vietnam veteran and member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, who helped decorate it. "The ribbons really set it off," he said.
The tree was set up in time for the homecoming of 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Brigade Saturday night.
Contact Audrey Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476.