By Ed Brock
As her daughter sang Christmas carols at the tree lighting for Army Garrison Fort Gillem in Forest Park, Cassie Grant of Rex thought about her nephew serving in the Navy in Iraq.
"We try to encourage him, send him encouraging letters," Grant said. "That's all we can do."
Grant's nephew, Shawn Norwood of Valdosta, and all the other troops deployed overseas were the topic of prayers and speeches at the ceremony held Thursday evening outside the Getaway Club at the fort.
"Although millions around the world celebrate this season differently, they all have the same theme - the sharing of peace and goodwill," said the fort's commander, Col. Angela Manos. "It's my hope that there will one day be peace throughout the world."
Another speaker at the tree lighting, First U.S. Army Commander Maj. Gen. Russel L. Honor?, also said Christmas and the holidays are a time of peace and asked the audience to remember the troops overseas.
"May next Christmas be more peaceful than this Christmas," Honor? said.
Members of the Adamson Middle School Chorus, including Grant's daughter, sang some carols before leading the crowd of some 200 people in a rendition of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Children flocked forward to "help" Honor? and Manos pull the giant candy-cane shaped switch to light the trees, and they spilled over each other into a pile as the twinkling lights came on.
Lisa Gillians of Rex also has a daughter in the chorus. She said her cousin is deployed in England, but she's lucky enough not to have anybody in the war zone. She thinks about those soldiers a lot, though.
"Hoping they get home soon safe and sound," Gillians said.
The American Red Cross has information on several programs to help the troops over the holidays.
Some of them include "Help Our Troops Call Home," "Gifts from the Homefront" and "Project Video Connect."
For information on "Help Our Troops Call Home," call 1-800-527-2345 or go to https://thor.aafes.com/scs/default.aspx.
For information on "Gifts from the Homefront" call 1-877-770-4438 or go to www.aafes.com.
Call (404) 876-3302 for information on "Project Video Connect" and other Red Cross programs.