Community leaders gather at Holiday Open House

10 Dec 2011 | Pfc. Jackeline Perez Rivera

An expressive rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” provided a tranquil backdrop to the smiles and quiet conversation that filled the Carolina room of the Paradise Point Officers Club aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune during the Joint Holiday Open House Saturday. The Joint Holiday Open House is an annual tradition that invites leaders and luminaries of the community along with leaders of MCB Camp Lejeune and other Marine Corps installations for a holiday celebration.

Held by Marine Corps Installations East, II Marine Expeditionary Force and MCB Camp Lejeune, the event took place in part, to thank members of the local community.

“We invite folks who have significantly contributed to the Marine Corps throughout the year,” said Maj. Regina Carbonari, the protocol officer and staff secretary of MCIEAST. “It’s to say hello, to thank them for what they’ve done for the military community and to celebrate the holidays.”

Invitees included local politicians, business owners and leaders of organizations that assist Marines.

“The base has a great relationship with the community,” said Col. Daniel Lecce the MCB Camp Lejeune commanding officer. “Local businesses and services such as the police department, fire department and others do so much for the base. This is MCB Camp Lejeune’s way to say thank you.”

“It’s (about) the importance of the season,” said Lt. Gen. John Paxton, the II MEF commanding general. “It’s our chance to recognize folks out in town.”

The event brought together old friends, and began new friendships.

“I like the interaction with the people, some of whom I haven’t seen for a while,” said retired Col. Paul O’Toole, the chairman of the Military Retiree Council. “There’s a common thread here. Either they’ve served, or their family has or they’re civilian support. We enjoy a communal sense of family. We’ve served together as a team, and that continues.”

Debbie Paxton, who works with the Wounded Warrior Regiment at MCB Quantico, Va., said it was very festive.

The room was sprinkled with tasteful winter and holiday themed decorations. It was outlined with tables full of food, beverages and dessert stations, along with areas for seating.  

“It’s wonderful to have our Marine family and friends, and the Jacksonville (community) gathered here,” said Debbie. “(It’s great) being able to talk to everyone, reestablish friendships with folks you haven’t seen and being able to get into the holiday spirit with them.”

The event featured the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Jazz Band, who gave melodic renditions of famous holiday songs. With charming vocals and elegant instrumentals, the band added an extra touch of luxury to the event.

“I love the band,” said Sgt. Maj. Todd Parisi, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit sergeant major. “They always bring such an awesome element of dignity (to events).”

The band played songs such as “White Christmas”, “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Little Drummer Boy” throughout the event.

“It’s wonderful to have the personal touch of the music,” said Debbie.

The function featured light hors d'oeuvres from Clubs and Catering with the Officers Club and divine desserts from Master Sgt. Theodore Hansen, the commanding general’s enlisted aide with II MEF and Cpl. Paul Dragicevich, the commanding general’s enlisted aide with MCIEAST. They worked for days to bring about the immensely popular desserts, which included a gingerbread man formation, fruit tarts, red velvet cupcakes, Linzer cookies, assorted truffles among a slew of other confections.

“It’s very good,” said O’Toole. “There are tasty desserts, there’s a good variety. There’s something for everyone.”

However, much like the holiday season which isn’t about presents or parties, the open house was not solely about desserts or music. It was a celebration of people and the bonds that form within MCB Camp Lejeune.

“It's nice to see folks that I typically work with in a more social setting,” said Lt. Col. A.J. Ylanan, the Deployment Processing Command East executive officer, who was present with his family. “It is bittersweet for us since this will be our last holiday season here in (MCB) Camp Lejeune, as we conclude our tour next summer and (will) head out for our follow-on assignment elsewhere. We will definitely miss many of the folks in both the (MCB) Camp Lejeune and Jacksonville community that we see here this evening."