PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Airmen and their families gathered on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, the first week of December to kick off the holiday season.
Col. Sam Johnson, 21st Space Wing vice commander, began the annual Menorah lighting ceremony Dec. 4, 2018, at the Peterson AFB Chapel, with a few words about family and hope.
“The menorah signifies hope, and in the military, we’re sort of the hope of America,” Johnson said. “If anybody in America hopes for peace, it’s us.”
Outside the chapel, Johnson flipped the switch on the 12-foot Menorah, lighting the third candle of the Jewish holiday.
Children in the audience listened to a recounting of the history of Hanukkah, learning how the people living in Judea set out to rebuild their temple following a rebellion against the Syrian king, Antiochus IV.
Judah’s followers went in search of olive oil that had not been made by the Greeks, finding just enough to light the menorah for 24 hours. Instead, the candles kept burning for eight nights.
Throughout history, Jews have showed a dedication to celebrating Hanukkah at all costs, said Rabbi Moshe Eliezer Liberow, director of Chabad Lubavitch of Southern Colorado.
“That is the message of Hanukkah,” Liberow said. “The good news is, here in the United States and on this wonderful Air Force base, we’re free to celebrate Hanukkah with freedom, with ease, with joy.”
Families returned to the chapel Dec. 6, 2018, for the annual Peterson AFB Christmas Tree Lighting. The Peterson Children’s Choir serenaded guests as they awaited the arrival of Santa Claus.
Santa arrived to much fanfare with help from the Peterson fire department. He, along with Col. Todd Moore, 21st SW commander, flipped the candy cane-shaped switch that brought the towering Christmas tree to life.
Children then traded the frigid temperatures for the warmth of the chapel, sipping hot cocoa with marshmallows and decorating Christmas cookies.
The annual event serves as a kickoff to the holiday season for the base community, said Lt. Col. William Spencer, 21st SW chaplain.
“It is our hope as people drive by the chapel during this holiday season and see the lights covering this beautiful tree that they would be encouraged by the light,” Spencer said. “As we focus on the light of the season and allow our own light to shine, it brings illumination, hope, and warmth – not only to others, but for ourselves as well.”