Fort Riley celebrates the holidays while honoring soldiers, military families

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It has officially become the season for holiday lights to decorate evergreen trees and tonight, Fort Riley will do just that with its annual holiday tree lighting ceremony.

The tree lighting, meant to greet the holiday season, is also a reminder for many of the sacrifices U.S. soldiers and military families have made for the nation.

“During the holidays we emphasize family values,” Andrew Massanet, public affairs specialist at Fort Riley, said. “The strength of our nation is our Army; the strength of our Army is our Soldiers; the strength of our soldiers is our families. This is what makes us total army strong.

Fort Riley Garrison Commander Col. Andrew Cole, Jr. will officially turn on the tree’s lights. However, this is a little different than usual, as this role is usually performed by the 1st Infantry Division commanding general, Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk. Funk is currently deployed to Iraq with his headquarters battalion. Regardless, the event represents a holiday tradition and history for the base.

Official holiday celebrations like this have been part of Fort Riley’s history since it was first built in 1853,” Massanet said. “It reflects the national effort to observe the holiday season.”

There are also appeals for the children as well that revolve around the spirit of the holidays. The event will include a visit from Santa Claus, who will arrive in the commanding general’s mounted color guard’s horse-drawn wagon.

“Our Santa is the real thing,” Massanet said.

The free event includes music by the 1st Infantry Division Band, holiday carols and refreshments. Festivities will start at 5:30 p.m. at Ware Parade Field, in front of the garrison headquarters at 500 Huebner Road at Fort Riley and is open to all citizens.

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