DOVER — The holiday season can be a difficult time for military families who may have a spouse, a son or daughter, or a loved one deployed overseas.
However, events like the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony that took place on a 45-degree Wednesday evening in Base Housing, adjacent to Dover Air Force Base, can help to fill that void, if only for a moment.
And while Santa Claus is always the main attraction at such events, Kassie Romeyn and her sons Hunter and Easton got the opportunity to take center stage when they flipped the switch at the end of the celebration to light up the Christmas tree on the grounds of Carpenter Chapel.
It was perfectly fitting, as TSgt. Dan Romeyn is deployed in Africa and will be away from Mrs. Romeyn and their two sons on Christmas Day.
“It was very awesome,” Mrs. Romeyn said, after being named the Guest of Honor and lighting the Christmas tree. “We were very, very honored to do that. It’s pretty hard but we get by, and we do what we can.
“They miss their dad. They have these little daddy dolls at home that they hug and that helps them a lot. It’s just different when we’re not close to family.”
Col. Matt Husemann, 436th Airlift Wing commander, noted that life as a member of a military family can be different and certainly has challenging times when it comes to holidays and other family milestones.
“To be able to gather families around for the holidays here and to welcome in those folks whose loved ones may be deployed across the globe, this makes it special to be able to spend that time with them and to recognize them and make sure that they’re doing OK and don’t need anything for the holidays,” Col. Husemann said.
“To be able to see those two little guys (Hunter and Easton Romeyn) flip the switch and know that just brings a little bit of joy to them during this season is awesome.”
The celebration began with a parade through base housing that offered sightings of Commander Husemann, the Grinch, a yellow biplane, marching airmen and the big guy in the bright red suit himself atop a firetruck at the tail end of the procession. Of course, there was also candy tossed from the vehicles that was quickly recovered by the sweets-seeking children.
Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen spoke to the crowd after the tree-lighting portion of the program began.
“For 80 years the city of Dover and Dover Air Force Base have celebrated Christmases and all our other holidays in time of war and time of peace,” Mayor Christiansen said. “One of the greatest honors that I have as mayor of the city of Dover is to tell everyone when I go traveling is that I have the greatest Air Force base in the United States Air Force.
“I’ll just leave you with these words. I am so proud of each and every one of you who serve today, who served in the past, and who will serve in the future, and hope that they have the great honor to be stationed at Dover Air Force Base.”
Children played and enjoyed the company of one another. Members of the Dover Air Base Middle School Choir and True Blue entertained the crowd by singing Christmas carols while bundled up to stay warm as onlookers sipped hot cocoa.
After the Romeyns brought the Christmas tree to its colorful life, Santa Claus made his way onto the scene to meet the children.
It brought a lot of joy and pride to Rebecca Pettit, a chaplain and 1st lieutenant at Dover AFB who was charged with organizing the celebration.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “Getting people together, especially after having so long of a time when we couldn’t get together, this is something that’s very special to us — bringing people together and building that community.
“It’s a way to say that we’re in this together.”