Home for the Holidays - or part of them - Becca Smith, a member of the United States Army, returned to Woodbridge to join the Woodbridge Volunteer Fire Department in welcoming Santa Claus to the fire station on Saturday, Dec. 17. Before joining the Army, Smith was a volunteer fire fighter with the department, and she wanted to share in the yearly tradition of hosting Santa.

Smith enlisted in the Army in June, 2004, and she is presently stationed in Virginia. She is to be promoted to a Specialist effective January, 2006. Her enlistment ends in 2008, after four years in the service.

Smith went to Ezra Academy in Woodbridge through sixth grade and then enrolled in the Amity School System. During her years at Amity, she participated in the specialized dance curriculum at ECA or Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven. After graduating from Amity High School in 2003, Smith worked for a year before deciding to join the Army.

"I think everyone should have to do it - partly because I'm Jewish. My family in Israel has to do it," Smith said.

Initially, her parents were not enthusiastic. However, her family came around. One of her father's friends recently teased her with, "Your dad will not shut up about you."

Recently, Smith began preparing to join the Army Soldier Show, a touring company put together to entertain the soldiers. The prototype for the show was initiated in 1918 by Sgt. Irving Berlin, who called it "Entertainment for the soldier, by the soldier." In 1983, a modern version was re-initiated with the same mission.

Each year, new cast members are chosen from among the troops to participate in a musical review that tours the world. To be considered, aspiring Army members must submit applications and other materials, such as videotapes. Candidates must have more than talent; only soldiers with an exemplary military record are considered. The show travels more than 25,000 miles from May to November, performing shows for more than 120,000 soldiers.

While back in Connecticut, Smith plans to return to her roots, ECA. She has arranged to make a dance video there for her audition. She is hopeful about performing in the Army Soldier Show, saying, "I'm a dancer. I can do any style."

Smith feels comfortable with her decision to join the Army. "I'm not going to re-enlist, but if I had to do it again, I would still enlist."

She maintains, "In the Army, you'll find the best friends you'll ever have. You can't make that kind of relationship without something like a fire department."