FORT LEAVENWORTH — "Woah," shouted 7-year-old Dahlia Wildy as Zais Park at Fort Leavenworth was lit up for Christmas for the first time this season on December 4 during the annual lighting ceremony.

Wildy, along with her mother Jennifer Wildy and her brother, 5-year-old Steffen Wildy, were the family chosen to help flip the light switch per the tradition of having the family of a deployed soldier participate in the ceremony.

Sgt. 1st Class Damion Wildy was watching live on Facebook and commented that it was the best birthday present to see his family help light the park.

"I was amazed," Dahlia Wildy said. "Like I was about to cry."

Jennifer Wildy said it was an awesome event to be a part of.

"I felt amazed when they called me," Jennifer Wildy said. "I felt very thankful that they called me. I didn’t think anyone remembered us.

"You still got to believe regardless of the situation and circumstances," she said. "We can’t take (Christmas) away from our kids just because there’s a pandemic. I’m just thankful and grateful that we had this opportunity."

To comply with COVID-19 restrictions, the Wildy family, and a handful of post leaders and Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation personnel were the only ones present at the ceremony that was streamed live on the Fort Leavenworth FMWR Facebook page.

"We would all much rather be here outside with the band and the choir and all the things we normally do, but I think it’s important that we continue to break traditions," said Lt. Gen. James Rainey, Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth commanding general. "Just like we’ve adjusted to train, we’ve adjusted to educate, we’ve adjusted to take care of our families and our friends, we’ve made some adjustments here. We have done great here as a team here at Fort Leavenworth dealing with this pandemic.

"To our great Army family, great Army kids, we wish your soldier, your dad our best. He’s in everybody’s thoughts and prayers," he said. "He’s representing thousands of men and women that are deployed right now keeping our country free, and I hope that everyone will keep all the deployed service members in their thoughts and prayers as we go through this great holiday season.

"We’re here to light up the park."

For the full ceremony, visit the Fort Leavenworth FMWR Facebook page.