A White House Christmas – Homefront United Network
The Holiday Season has officially begun at the White House, with this year the theme being “Gather Around”. The perfect kick-off to the year was opening the White House to Military Families as the first guests to view the decorations. Sixteen of the 83 volunteers have served in the military or are military family members.
It is no surprise that many of the decorations honor Military Families, a tradition started by Mrs. Obama several years ago. Visitors are greeted in the East Entrance by a tree dedicated to Gold Star Families and our fallen service members. At the tree you can meet Mary Byers, the mother of Captain Josh Byers, US Army. Mary and her husband were Baptist missionaries, and Byers, a 1996 graduate of West Point, was a leader in the church and loved by many. Byers left a large void in July of 2003 that is still felt by many. His mother honored his memory by taking part in this year’s decoration making, which included handmade star ornaments with tiny gold stars woven in the middle of them. It is here visitors can also sign Operation Honor cards, pledging volunteer hours as well as postcards to send to the troops.
As guests make their way through the rooms they will make their way to the official White House Christmas Tree, which like many years past, features ornaments and decorations honoring military families. There are 2,000 ornaments on the 18.5 foot tree. Many of the ornaments on the tree are actually holiday greeting cards created by military children across the country. Photographs of homecomings make up many of the remaining ornaments. Holiday volunteers made paper-mache stars and hand embroidered ribbon ornaments. It was here you could find Janice Walter, wife of Retired Air Force Chief, Stanley Walter. She spent her time helping Mary decorating the Gold Star tree. For her, being a part of history was one of the reasons why she wanted to be here. That is the story that many of the volunteers shared that day. It is as simple as that. They wanted to be a part of history.
It was in the East Room that military families got to be a part of that history, and spend time with the First Lady. Mrs. Obama expressed gratitude to the families in the room. She talked about military families and the spirit of service that lives in all of them, commenting on the fact that 81% of the military population has logged volunteer hours, compared to 27% of the general population. She then escorted the children that were present to participate in several crafts with some of the White House staff members. Sunny and Bo even made an appearance to the delight of the children.
For more information, including videos of the White House Gingerbread mansion and instructions on how to recreate the crafts the military children did, visit the White House Christmas page.