FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Military families at Fort Rucker don't have to wait until Christmas day to enjoy all of their gifts, as Trees for Troops will be handing out free Christmas trees to them Dec. 2 at 8 a.m. at the Bowden Community Center at 9700 Division Road.

"At this time of year, finances can be tough for Soldiers and family members," Teresa Whitman-McCall, DFMWR RDS program manager, said. "Presents, travel expenses, entertainment and decorations are all costs that add up on a family's Christmas budget. Trees for Troops helps out by taking one expense off of the military community by providing a high-quality tree so families can celebrate the season."

According to McCall, the trees are available to any active-duty military members and their families. The first 125 Soldiers or family members in line with a valid military ID will get a tree.

"Trees are available on a first-come, first served basis to all military ID card holders," she said. "Soldiers and family members are eligible by showing their ID card. Trees are donated by Christmas tree growers throughout the country.

"We wish we had enough trees for every Soldier, but we are thrilled to offer approximately 125 trees for 2017," she added. "This is approximately a 40-percent increase in the number of donated trees from last year."

DFMWR and the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers representatives will be available Dec. 1 to hand out the trees for selected families at the Bowden Community Center beginning at 8 a.m., according to McCall. BOSS Soldiers will be on site to help with loading, but cannot deliver trees directly to homes. Families are asked to bring straps or ropes to secure the tree for transport.

According to McCall, Trees for Troops will surpass the 200,000th tree mark and is expected to deliver at least 17,000 trees this holiday season. Trees for Troops, a program co-founded by the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx in 2005, provides hundreds of trees to military families across the United States each year.

"Christmas trees symbolize all that is merry and bright about the holiday season," she said. "Evergreen trees have been used for thousands of years to celebrate the winter solstice. It became part of a Christian tradition to bring a tree into the house around the 16th century.

"Christmas is a time for joy and giving," she added. "Having a Christmas tree in your house, all lit up with sparkling lights and decorated with special ornaments helps Soldiers and family members remember what is best about the season -- family and friends. Just seeing a Christmas tree brings happiness and joy to our lives and helps us remember all the wonders that life brings."

For more information, call 255-9810 or visit https://rucker.armymwr.com/ to check out all the available programs and events occurring on Fort Rucker this holiday season.