MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. -- Some say it’s the most wonderful time of the year. The Christmas holiday brings presents, cheer and time with family.
Service members can often be away from family and may not have the opportunity to visit their families during the holiday season, but Marine Corps Air Station New River provided its residents the chance to experience the Christmas spirit away from home through many different events.
Festivities started Dec. 5 with an early visit from Santa during the Santa Tour, where volunteers passed out candy to the residents of air station housing as they watched Santa greet everyone.
The following day more than 1,000 air station residents gathered for the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony.
"The sense of community and holiday spirit was alive and well during the Tree Lighting Ceremony," said Sgt. Maj. William Oldenburg, air station sergeant major. "There was a tremendous turnout to see Santa and dozens of children assisted the commanding officer and (me) in flipping the switch to illuminate the tree. The USO Troupe performed many holiday songs that entertained hundreds in attendance. It is events like these that help continue to make New River ‘Your best tour in the Corps.’"
Tuesday, the air station held a holiday celebration for the community.
"The kids and my wife and I were excited to come to the holiday party at the library, with cupcakes, stories and crafts," said Navy Lt. Brandon Hood, a chaplain with Marine Aircraft Group 26. "The kids are just having a blast."
Hood also cautioned that while service members may encounter moments of depression during the holiday season, help is available.
"We see a spike in suicide and destructive behavior, including alcohol abuse, during this time of year, it’s meant to be the season of joy though it’s a season of deep loneliness and pain for many," said Hood. "The military offers programs to meet every need, through Marine Corps Community Services, Family Readiness Officers, chaplains and other programs."
With Christmas around the corner, the chapels on the air station are holding different religious ceremonies based on their faith. Special religious programs include Catholic and Protestant services.
Catholic services consist of the Christmas Vigil Mass, Dec. 24 at 6 p.m. and the Mary, Mother of God Vigil Mass Dec. 31 at 6 p.m.
Protestant services being held include the Christmas Eve Candle Light Service Dec. 24 at 7:30 p.m. and the Night Watch/Year End service Dec. 31 at 8 p.m.
Chaplains are also reaching out to service members who may be in need during this financially stressful time of year. The MAG-26 Chaplains office has collected donations of toys and groceries and can be reached at 449-7180.