FORT LIBERTY — Fort Liberty celebrated its first Christmas tree lighting Thursday night and announced the installation’s first Family of the Year since the post redesignated from being Fort Bragg in June.
Helping to light the tree was this year’s Family of the Year, the Hassoun family, which includes 1st Lt. Nasser Hassoun, wife Emily, toddler Eliana and baby Elias.
First Lt. Nasser, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is assigned to the B Detachment, 319th Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Battalion, 525th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, 18th Airborne Corps.
He has been in the Army for more than three years and been stationed at Fort Liberty for more than two, while his wife, of Houston, is also in the National Guard and attached to a military police unit.
“We feel honored,” he said, minutes before flipping a switch to light the tree.
Emily Hassoun said she was glad to see the Fort Liberty community out and connecting.
“It's cold and not the most comfortable, but they’re out here, and they’re out here ready to see all these traditions going on, the lighting of the tree and the ceremony itself,” she said.
Organizers said this was the 21st year the installation has recognized a Family of the Year.
Lt. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Liberty, said all the families “have done incredible stuff,” and are representative of the installation.
“We can never thank you enough for what you have done and we know what you’ll continue to do,” Donahue said, later recognizing that Fort Liberty has soldiers deployed and soldiers preparing to deploy to Europe. “So, even though we’ll pick one (family), it’s really far bigger than that.”
Fourteen families were nominated by their units and chain of command “for their demonstration of strength, resilience and cohesion as a family, as well as their involvement in the unit and community,” said Liz Dailey, supervisor of Fort Liberty’s Army Community Service, and emcee for a ceremony at the Fort Liberty Main Post Chapel ahead of the lighting.
Dailey said a panel reviewed 14 submissions to select the top five families, before narrowing it down to the Hassoun family.
Family of the Year's community involvement
Emily Hassoun said she’s gotten plugged into Fort Liberty through the Soldier Family Readiness Group and through their involvement with a mosque on post.
“It sounds cliche, but I’ve really just been making friends and kind of getting to know them on a more personal level to see how we can help them,” she said.
Lt. Hassoun said that shortly after arriving to Fort Liberty, he found the installation’s chapel annex, where he was able to connect with soldiers from different units.
“At the time, the month of Ramadan was coming up, and a lot of soldiers had — you know you're fasting from sunrise to sunset — no food and no water,” he said.
Lt. Hassoun said he received support from his company commander to connect with soldiers from across the 82nd Airborne Division and U.S. Army Special Operations Command to connect and support each other during the religious observance.
“It became more like a family unit in a sense and creating a family bond that has lasted two years and beyond,” he said.
Other Fort Bragg families named as runners up out of 14 on Thursday night were Capt. Matthew Deans, wife Holly and son Shephard; 1st Lt. Wesley “Adam” Lee, wife Kassandra and children Ava, Amelia and Charlotte; Sgt. 1st Class Shea Myatt, wife Kaila and children Scarlet, Theodore and Elliot; and 1st Sgt. John Singharath, wife Courtney and children Ender, Aulani and Alura.
Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3528.
This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Fort Liberty names its 2023 Family of the Year