Jennifer Wildy, spouse of deployed soldier Sgt. 1st Class Damion Wildy, and their children 7-year-old Dahlia and 5-year-old Steffen listen to Glenn Hewitt, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director, explain how the annual lighting ceremony will be conducted before the event Dec. 4 at Zais Park. The event was only attended by those involved in the ceremony and was streamed on Facebook because of COVID-19 precautions. The Wildy family assisted Lt. Gen. James Rainey, Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth commanding general, in throwing the switch to light up the park during the short ceremony. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

“Woah,” shouted 7-year-old Dahlia Wildy as Zais Park was lit up for Christmas for the first time this season during the annual lighting ceremony Dec. 4.


Wildy, along with her mother Jennifer Wildy and her brother, 5-year-old Steffen Wildy, were the family chosen to help flip the light switch per the tradition of having the family of a deployed soldier participate in the ceremony.

Jennifer Wildy, spouse of deployed soldier Sgt. 1st Class Damion Wildy, and their children 7-year-old Dahlia and 5-year-old Steffen look around at Zais Park after helping throw the switch to light the park’s gazebo and trees during the annual holiday lighting Dec. 4. The event was only attended by those involved in the ceremony and was streamed on Facebook because of COVID-19 precautions. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


Sgt. 1st Class Damion Wildy was watching live on Facebook and commented that it was the best birthday present to see his family help light the park.


“I was amazed,” Dahlia Wildy said. “Like I was about to cry.”


Jennifer Wildy said it was an awesome event to be a part of.


“I felt amazed when they called me,” Jennifer Wildy said. “I felt very thankful that they called me. I didn’t think anyone remembered us.


“You still got to believe regardless of the situation and circumstances,” she said. “We can’t take (Christmas) away from our kids just because there’s a pandemic. I’m just thankful and grateful that we had this opportunity.”

Combined Arms Center Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Dostie encourages the Wildy family — Jennifer Wildy, spouse of deployed soldier Sgt. 1st Class Damion Wildy, and their children 7-year-old Dahlia and 5-year-old Steffen — as they help Lt. Gen. James Rainey, CAC and Fort Leavenworth commanding general, throw the switch to light up Zais Park during a short ceremony Dec. 4 in the park gazebo. The ceremony was aired on Facebook and only attended by those involved in the ceremony because of ongoing COVID-19 precautions. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


To comply with COVID-19 restrictions, the Wildy family, and a handful of post leaders and Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation personnel were the only ones present at the ceremony that was streamed live on the Fort Leavenworth FMWR Facebook page.

Combined Arms Center Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Dostie and CAC and Fort Leavenworth Commanding General Lt. Gen. James Rainey celebrate the lighting of Zais Park with the Wildy family — Jennifer Wildy, spouse of deployed soldier Sgt. 1st Class Damion Wildy, and their children 7-year-old Dahlia and 5-year-old Steffen — during a short ceremony Dec. 4 in the park gazebo. The ceremony was aired on Facebook and only attended by those involved in the ceremony because of ongoing COVID-19 precautions. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


“We would all much rather be here outside with the band and the choir and all the things we normally do, but I think it’s important that we continue to break traditions,” said Lt. Gen. James Rainey, Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth commanding general. “Just like we’ve adjusted to train, we’ve adjusted to educate, we’ve adjusted to take care of our families and our friends, we’ve made some adjustments here. … We have done great here as a team here at Fort Leavenworth dealing with this pandemic.

Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Commanding General Lt. Gen. James Rainey and Tracy Rainey bow their heads as Chaplain (Col.) Michael McDonald, Garrison chaplain, delivers the invocation during the annual lighting ceremony Dec. 4 at Zais Park. “Lord, I ask that as the switch is thrown tonight and the darkness is pierced by glorious light, that in like manner, our acts of kindness, goodwill and peace toward our neighbors would act as a light to pierce the darkness of feelings of hopelessness and despair,” McDonald prayed. “Let this wonderful Fort Leavenworth community rise up and shine as a light of hope and a paragon of solidarity and compassion.” The ceremony was aired on Facebook and only attended by those involved in the ceremony because of ongoing COVID-19 precautions. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


“To our great Army family, great Army kids, we wish your soldier, your dad our best. He’s in everybody’s thoughts and prayers,” he said. “He’s representing thousands of men and women that are deployed right now keeping our country free, and I hope that everyone will keep all the deployed service members in their thoughts and prayers as we go through this great holiday season.

Memorial Chapel lights up at the annual holiday lighting of Zais Park Dec. 4. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


“We’re here to light up the park.”


For the full ceremony, visit the Fort Leavenworth FMWR Facebook page.

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