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CAMP STANLEY, South Korea — The commander of the 2nd Infantry Division helped throw the switch on the holiday season late Thursday, as soldiers mingled with orphans and schoolchildren at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Camp Stanley.

Maj. Gen. John Wood and a crowd of about 200 soldiers were entertained by the children from Song Hyong High School and orphans from Isaac House, who sang Christmas carols before the division’s first tree lighting ceremony this holiday season.

Division Artillery Commander Col. Ross Ridge, who oversees the facilities at Camp Stanley, told those gathered outside the camp chapel that the ceremony echoed the national Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Washington, D.C.

“Every year the president of the United States, our commander in chief, lights the national Christmas tree. Then all over the U.S. and here in Korea, U.S. military communities follow the president’s example,” he said.

“Across the globe there are thousands of military men and women like us who are standing side by side with their allies in defense of freedom and are attempting to maintain the peace,” he said. “Through their actions, the Christmas message can be lived.”

After Ridge spoke, two young orphan girls pulled a giant switch to light up the tree.

Ridge said later that the event meant more to him than tree lighting ceremonies he had attended in the past, because of the soldiers who are not able to be with their families.

“This brings a piece of home to them and it is a reminder each time they walk past the tree,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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