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On the day before Thanksgiving, sixth-graders under the tutelage of Angela Hampton and Dawn Torrain spent the afternoon creating holiday ornaments for the Giessen community Christmas tree. A tree lighting ceremoney is planned for 4:30 p.m. Thursday on Giessen Depot near the flagpole. Other military communites across Europe will hold similar ceremonies this week and next.

On the day before Thanksgiving, sixth-graders under the tutelage of Angela Hampton and Dawn Torrain spent the afternoon creating holiday ornaments for the Giessen community Christmas tree. A tree lighting ceremoney is planned for 4:30 p.m. Thursday on Giessen Depot near the flagpole. Other military communites across Europe will hold similar ceremonies this week and next. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)

On the day before Thanksgiving, sixth-graders under the tutelage of Angela Hampton and Dawn Torrain spent the afternoon creating holiday ornaments for the Giessen community Christmas tree. A tree lighting ceremoney is planned for 4:30 p.m. Thursday on Giessen Depot near the flagpole. Other military communites across Europe will hold similar ceremonies this week and next.

On the day before Thanksgiving, sixth-graders under the tutelage of Angela Hampton and Dawn Torrain spent the afternoon creating holiday ornaments for the Giessen community Christmas tree. A tree lighting ceremoney is planned for 4:30 p.m. Thursday on Giessen Depot near the flagpole. Other military communites across Europe will hold similar ceremonies this week and next. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)

An assortment of Christmas tree ornaments made by two sixth-grade classes at Giessen Elementary School in Germany.

An assortment of Christmas tree ornaments made by two sixth-grade classes at Giessen Elementary School in Germany. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)

GIESSEN, Germany — When the children of Giessen pass the community Christmas tree this holiday season, some may cast a longer look.

That’s because a little of their handiwork is hanging from the community tree at Giessen Depot.

In the days leading up to the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, scores of Giessen-area students created ornaments for the local troops serving in Iraq.

And none of the classrooms were busier than two adjoining rooms occupied by teachers Angela Hampton and Dawn Torrain.

“I’m trying to give it a wintry feeling,” 11-year-old Sarah Brown said last week as Hampton walked by for a look at her ornament.

Many of the children had a parent in mind, though not all. Sarah made two ornaments for a pair of military police officers she has never met.

“A lot of soldiers need our support,” Sarah said after applying the finishing touches to her second orb.

“Some people don’t appreciate what they do.”

Tina O’Brien sure does.

Her father, Sgt. 1st Class James O’Brien, is in Iraq, and he has not come home for the holidays. Roughly 90 percent of the soldiers assigned to Giessen have deployed to Iraq.

The ornament Tina made for her father soon will occupy a treasured twig on the community Christmas tree.

“I miss how my father hugs and kisses me at night, and how he says, ‘I love you,’” Tina said softly.

By the end of the period, as school buses waited outside, Tina, Sarah and the rest of their schoolmates began to clean up. Nearly all of the kids had paint, glitter or gooey stuff on their hands and elsewhere.

But the sight of all those ornaments and what they represent, plus the fact Thanksgiving was a day away, seemed to drain the two adjoining classrooms of the usual chatter that fills them just before a long weekend.

“Holidays are hard times,” said Torrain, whose husband is deployed, “but you make the best of them.”

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