New sign lights way for holidays

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Oleksandra G. Manko
  • Nellis AFB Public Affairs
As the holiday season rolled in, a new design decorated the billboard at the main entrance to Nellis AFB. Glowing warmly from its surface are five advent, nine menorah and seven kwanza candles.

This is the work of Mary Jo Wheeler, retired master sergeant and presently a 99th Communications Squadron telecommunications project manager at Creech AFB.

Wheeler, who also sings a cappella, shared how she came up with her holiday design: "One of my favorite Christmas songs, 'White Christmas,' has a phrase 'May your days be merry and bright.' What better phrase to use for all who celebrate love and hope this time of year?"

The 99th Air Base Wing Command Chief's office is responsible for collecting design ideas and choosing a painter. Tech. Sgt. Jillian Swanson, 99th Air Base Wing Command Chief's assistant, accepts design submissions at any time and solicits for designs every time a special occasion arises. On average, the design changes every month or two.

"There were six submissions this time," said Sergeant Swanson, "but the chief liked this particular one because it reflected all major holidays."

"The timeline to get it completed was a bit tight - a lot of off duty time spent over the Thanksgiving break," said Wheeler. "One of the challenges I had to overcome was realizing that my attention to detail isn't as important, since most will view [the sign] at 5 mph from at least 100 feet."

The artist said it took her approximately 33 hours between Nov. 26 and Dec. 5 to complete the sign.

"Painting the billboard was quite an experience," she said. "I haven't painted in some time, so I hope this experience will help me revisit my old skills."