Menorah and Christmas tree lighting on Fort Benning

Menorah and Christmas tree lighting on Fort Benning

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FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) -

With holiday tunes, kids from three Fort Benning schools singing, and the lighting of a menorah and Christmas trees, Fort Benning officially kicked off the holiday season on Tuesday night.

Due to rain, this year's ceremony happened inside the Infantry Center Chapel on post.  However, the giant menorah and Christmas tree at the Field of the Four Chaplains are still shining despite the weather.

"The soldiers and families truly reflect the great diversity of this great country.  So, we want to make sure that we are inclusive and give all of our faiths and all our soldiers the opportunity to enjoy the season," said Colonel Jeffrey Fletcher.

So, for this festive night, groups with Jewish and Christian beliefs came together.

"Really [to celebrate] two miracles.  Not only the miracle of Christ coming to earth but, for our Jewish brethren, the lighting of the miracle of the menorah," said Captain Tim Behnke.

 A special guest, Santa Claus even made an appearance just in from the North Pole.

"[The trip was] chilly and then, once you got to Georgia it was rainy, but you know what, the reindeer know their way.  So, I just kind of sit back and relax and let them go," explained Santa.

The kids lined up after the lighting ceremony waiting to tell Santa their long holiday wish-lists.  Some, like 4-year-old Adam Behnke, knew right away what they want.

"Rocket!.  Yes, a rocket," said Behnke.

Col. Fletcher says this is a time for Fort Benning to show gratitude to the soldiers and their families.

"The holiday season just really represents a great opportunity for them to reflect and for us to just show our thanks for what they do day in and day out," said Fletcher.

For many, like Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Enfield, this happy time reminded them of all those soldiers deployed and unable to spend the holidays with those they love.

"You have a lot of people back home thinking about you, praying for you," said Enfield. 

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