• Zais Park lights up for the holiday

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    With the help of Sgt. Jarret Whitley, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, his wife Jori Whitley and their sons 8-year-old Jacob West-Whitley, 1-year-old Jaxson Whitley and 3-month-old Jonah Whitley, Fort Leavenworth officially lit up for the holidays following the annual tree lighting ceremony Dec. 7 at Zais Park.
    Each year, a family of a deployed soldier is chosen to help with the lighting and their names are engraved on the switch alongside the families from past years.
    Sgt. Whitley will deploy with the 15th Military Police Brigade in early 2019.
    “I thought it was really nice that they do something for families like us,” Jori Whitley said.
    Though the Whitleys have been stationed at Fort Leavenworth for four years, this was their first time attending the event.
    “Usually, it has been too cold because of the little ones, but every year we drive by to look at the gazebo,” Jori Whitley said. “I love it.”
    Though the lights were not turned on until after dark, attendees endured the cold temperatures and filled up the park long beforehand.
    The event, coordinated by Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, included free hot chocolate and cookies from the Fort Leavenworth Commissary, baked goods provided by the 902nd Military Intelligence Group Family Readiness Group, opportunities for pictures with Santa and a Nutcracker provided by Munson Army Health Center, and carriage rides.
    The evening also featured performances from the Patton Junior High School choir, the 312th Army Band, and the Bradley, Eisenhower and MacArthur Elementary School combined choir.
    The elementary school combined choir sang 11 songs, which they have been practicing since the end of September, said Stephanie Schwartz Newton, Eisenhower music teacher.
    “They did great,” Newton said. “They are always a little nervous. For fourth grade, this is their first performance, but fifth- and sixth-graders is just like, ‘Oh, this is old hat.’ We just love it.”
    The elementary school combined choir consisted of more than 125 children.
    During the formal portion of the event and just before the lights were switched on, Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy, commanding general of the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, addressed the hundreds of people in attendance.
    “I’d like to welcome everybody tonight and as we get ready to go into the holiday season, I just want to tell all of you, for our entire Fort Leavenworth community, thanks very much for what you do every day for our soldiers and for our families,” Lundy said. “It does truly make a difference and the impact that you have out there, I see it on a daily basis for our Army and the work you do is absolutely phenomenal. So, with that, Paula and I wish you a very happy holiday, a very safe holiday and a joyous holiday and all the blessings to you.”
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