Soldiers' Families receive free Christmas trees
Command Sgt. Maj. John McNeirney, left, Fort Drum garrison command sergeant major, and Brig. Gen. Harry E. Miller Jr., right, senior commander Fort Drum, help unload a FedEx truck packed with 600 Christmas trees during the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation's 6th annual Trees for Troops program.

FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Some believe the spirit of Christmas is captured by the fragrance of a fresh-cut fir, lit up and decorated in a warm living room.

It's why organizers of Trees for Troops, a national campaign that delivers free farm-grown trees to service members and their Families, recently trucked 600 snow-covered conifers onto Fort Drum to be handed out to Soldiers.

"People appreciate the sacrifices military members and their Families make each and every day," Dick Moore, tree farm owner and president of the National Christmas Tree Association, said in a statement. "As Christmas tree farmers, we want to provide a little Christmas spirit and maybe start a new tradition with military Families to be able to experience a traditional Christmas with a real tree."

"This is a great day for the Fort Drum Family and community," said Brig. Gen. Harry E. Miller Jr., senior commander Fort Drum, during this year's Trees for Troops delivery.

"The fellows behind me have been doing this for the past five years," he said. "The Soldiers and their Families really appreciate it."

In a stinging cold, Miller, along with Command Sgt. Maj. John McNeirney, Fort Drum garrison command sergeant major, lowered trees full of sap and snow to Soldiers waiting at the rear of a FedEx truck in front of Hays Hall. Trees were then loaded on five-ton trucks and taken to a distribution point.

"The Trees for Troops program ... is just such a great thing for the Soldiers and their Families here on the installation, especially the Families of deployed Soldiers," said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Mosier, 548th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion command sergeant major, who has participated in the program for the past two years.

"There's been positive feedback from every Soldier and spouse out there," Mosier added. "It's just a big blessing for them every year."

NCTA's nonprofit Christmas SPIRIT Foundation launched Trees for Troops in 2005. Along with shipping giant FedEx, the program has delivered the sweet scent of Christmas evergreens to tens of thousands of military Families.

Some 17,000 Christmas trees will be shipped to military Families throughout the world this holiday season.

Dick Darling, owner of Darling Tree Farm in Clifton Springs and New York state director of the Trees for Troops program, said more than 1,000 farm-grown Christmas trees are being delivered to military Families from Buffalo to New York City this year.

He said the program's success can be attributed to the cooperation of 150 New York tree farm owners and donations from groups such as the American Legion and Boy Scouts of America.

"We really enjoy this, and it's getting bigger every year for us," Darling said. "It makes us feel good to help pay back a little bit for what (the Soldiers) are doing for us."

If organizers of the initiative hoped to spread the Christmas spirit, this year's Trees for Troops program appears to have achieved its goal.

"It just gets everybody, the whole community, into the giving spirit of the season," Miller said. "I greatly appreciate it."

Page last updated Tue December 21st, 2010 at 10:00