FORT HOOD, Texas -- Humidity and Christmas music filled the air at Hood Stadium during the the annual Trees for Troops event here, Dec. 11.
Brandi Crist, Chief of Community Recreation for the Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and the volunteers were full of Christmas cheer and were ready to help the 750 trees find homes for Christmas.
“We were supposed to get 580, but FedEx and the Christmas Spirit Foundation, they were able to redirect some trees that they had as extras, so we got 750,” Crist said.
Since they received extra trees, they could give out more than they anticipated. Though 550 trees were given out during the day, Friday during the allotted time period, the extra 200 were left at Hood Stadium for Soldiers to take home. By morning on Saturday they were all gone.
“We just want to make sure that everybody has a good holiday season,” Crist said. “There’s something special about smelling a (real) Christmas tree, and if you have it in your house it kind of permeates everything. It creates that holiday cheer. So, we want to make sure that all of our Soldiers and families have that in their houses.”
COVID-19 changed the procedure for giving out trees this year. DFWMR decided to give out vouchers and time slots to make sure everyone was safe while looking at the trees.
“Usually, the morning of, we have people lining up outside and they come up, and they pick up their tree,” Crist said. “This year we did the voucher distribution to try and spread everybody out throughout the day. So we had 50 vouchers for a 30-minute time slot.”
Military spouse Rosie Collins was in one of the first time slots and she was very excited to pick out a real tree to make her 5-month-old daughter’s first Christmas extra special.
“It’s been really hard, especially with COVID-19 going on. Some of us weren’t able to keep a job, and this is the time of giving,” Collins said of why she thinks it’s important to pick out a free tree.
Volunteers Sgt. Robert Magallan and Sgt. Christopher Kassnerwright both from 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, were excited to volunteer their time helping Soldiers and their family members pick out the perfect tree.
“Bringing smiles to peoples’ faces, it’s just joyful,” Kassnerwright said about his favorite part of volunteering for Trees for Troops.
Magallan believes Trees for Troops helps the Soldiers to know that the community cares about them.
“For the Soldiers, it’s a good thing. Most of them won’t buy one. They’re a little expensive, like $100 trees, they aren’t going to spend on that,” he said. “It shows that the community cares about them. Most of the time we are always training and things are demanding their time. When Fort Hood gives back to them, it shows that they care.”