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Vandenberg rings in the holidays

Members of Vandenberg congregate around a Christmas tree during a tree lighting ceremony, to mark the beginning of the holiday season, Dec. 4, 2014, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Base family and personnel were present for the festivities which included the tree lighting, Christmas carols, and a surprise appearance from Santa Claus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Robert Volio/Released)

Members of Vandenberg congregate around a Christmas tree during a tree lighting ceremony, to mark the beginning of the holiday season, Dec. 4, 2014, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Base family and personnel were present for the festivities which included the tree lighting, Christmas carols, and a surprise appearance from Santa Claus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Robert Volio/Released)

Members of Vandenberg recently celebrated the beginning of the holiday season with a tree lighting ceremony, Dec. 4, 2014, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Base family and personnel gathered for the festivities that included the tree lighting, Christmas caroling, and a surprise appearance from Santa Claus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Robert Volio/Released)

Members of Vandenberg recently celebrated the beginning of the holiday season with a tree lighting ceremony, Dec. 4, 2014, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Base family and personnel gathered for the festivities that included the tree lighting, Christmas caroling, and a surprise appearance from Santa Claus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Robert Volio/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Vandenberg personnel recently celebrated the beginning of the holiday season with a tree lighting ceremony, here, Dec. 4.

Base family and personnel gathered for the festivities that included the tree lighting, Christmas caroling, and a surprise appearance from Santa Claus.

"The lighting of the tree signifies that the holiday season has commenced," said 2nd Lt. Edwin Colon, 1st Air and Space Test Squadron chief of training. "It's a time to sing songs, enjoy one another, get away from the monotonous day-to-day stuff and just be together with your loved ones."

Boy and girl scouts caroled through Christmas classics like "Jingle Bells", "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", and "Deck the Halls." Several toddlers then joined Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, in lighting the enormous tree in front of building 11777. The participating children all have parents currently deployed. After the tree lighting, the carolers began to sing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" before summoning Santa, who arrived in a fire truck. The packed crowds, specifically the children, were giddy with excitement upon seeing Saint Nick.

Events like the tree lighting ceremony are a constant reminder to children that they are not alone during the holidays, even in their deployed parents' absence.

"I think these community events are important because they help the children feel like they're not alone," said Tech Sgt. Justin Gonzalez, 30th Security Forces Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of reports and analysis. "I've deployed five times and every base event that happened in my absence helped promote closeness and raised my family's spirits."
After the formal portion of the ceremony concluded, families took their children inside to sit with Santa and proclaim their Christmas wish lists.

The amazing turnout for the event, coupled with the beautiful scenery produced throughout the night, resulted in many children eagerly awaiting Christmas.

"When you see the smiling faces of the kids, when they see Santa and they see the tree lit up, it's a magical feeling," said Capt. Angelica Heiderich, 532nd Training Squadron instructor. "It's my favorite time of the year. You stress out all year and this is the one time where you can relax and enjoy yourself. It just makes everyone smile."