After 12 weeks of training and testing, 50 soldiers from Fort Gordon got a much- needed break Thursday evening. They were looking forward to leaving the Army post, but many didn’t know exactly where they were going.
“I had no idea what was coming,” said Pvt. First Class Elise Donhardt, of Illinois. “I didn’t know until I got here that it was a singing Christmas tree.”
For these lucky few, their escape was a special dress rehearsal performance of the Abilene Baptist Church Living Christmas Tree, one of the area’s more popular Christmas events. With only four performances in three days, tickets for the event, while free, are hard to come by. Organizer’s say that about 5,000 people will attend the four shows, but there are always many more requests for tickets than seating will allow.
The Thursday event was the brainstorm of Abilene Associate Pastor the Rev. Josh Saefkow and Fort Gordon Chaplain Christopher Winerich.
“When I went out and talked to him to see how we could serve the base, he said, ‘The Christmas tree is fantastic,’ ” said Saefkow, “So I said, ‘Lets do a special night for the soldiers.’”
“We love our soldiers and this gives us a chance to say thank you,” said Abilene pastor the Rev. Brad Whitt. “We’re excited about it.”
For Maj. Dwayne Murray, a member of Abilene Baptist, the evening had a special significance. Maj. Murray sang a solo performance with the church choir.
“I was definitely nervous before my performance tonight, “ said Murray. “A show like this puts the troops in a good frame of mind and gives them a moral compass,” he said.
Murray said the evening was a moving experienec.
“I know that when I finished my performance I had tears in my eyes,” he said.
From the looks of those in attendance, he wasn’t the only one.