TAJI, Iraq (Army News Service, Dec. 22, 2006) - Though a white Christmas is out of the question, the holiday season will be a little homier for Soldiers deployed here thanks to a couple from Ludington, Mich., and a sergeant major from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade.

Jim Nickelson and wife, Beth, sent two Fraser fir trees to the 1st ACB to bring holiday cheer to the frontlines, Nickelson said.

"Hopefully it brightens their mood for a period of time while they're away from their families" Nickelson wrote in an email from his home.

The Nickelsons' Needlefast Evergreens farm is adjacent to the childhood home of Sgt. Maj. Della St. Louis, the brigade operations sergeant major.

St. Louis, for the third consecutive year, arranged for the shipment of the holiday trees the Nickelsons donated. The first was during the 1st ACB deployment from 2004 to 2005, and she had trees sent to 3rd Infantry Division which served in Iraq from 2005 to 2006, she said.

"Soldiers are so far away from friends and families, and this is something that brings togetherness around the holidays," St. Louis said. "It's just something that I can do for Soldiers."

The Nickelsons pay for the customs inspection and donate the trees, and St. Louis pays the shipping costs.

The two packages were Christmas in a box when they arrived in late November. Within a couple of days, the trees were up and decorated at the administrative/logistics and tactical operations centers.

"When they opened the boxes, the smell of pine took me home," said Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Hernandez, assistant noncommissioned officer in charge of the Aviation Defense Operations Center. "When I'm home for Christmas, we have a live tree, and we decorate all that we can. It's all about the Christmas spirit."

"I didn't serve in the Armed Forces myself, and my wife and I feel it's the very least we can do to provide a small slice of home, or perhaps some of the Christmas spirit that they might have had if they had been home," Nickelson said.