FORT HOOD, Texas - The smell of the holidays filled the air here at the Phantom Warrior Stadium as 729 live Christmas trees, provided by Trees for Troops and delivered by FedEx Freight, waited to be taken home, Dec. 9.
Trees for Troops is a program of the Christmas Spirit Foundation, which provides free, farm-grown Christmas trees to service members in all branches of the U.S. military and their families.
Lower enlisted Soldiers and their family members lined up for the opportunity to select their own live Christmas tree and were given priority before the event was opened to the rest of the Fort Hood community.
Derrick Perry, coordinator with the Fort Hood Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation, explained that priority was given to the lower enlisted to ensure they would get first pick before the trees were gone.
Perry added that this event was a great opportunity for Soldiers and family members to celebrate old traditions and create new ones.
“I think it’s great to have an event like this because there are a lot of service members ... from the northern states that grew up with live trees, and also, it’s a great experience for Soldiers from the southern states that have never had the opportunity to have a live tree,” Perry said.
Lisa Thorpe is from Utah and fondly remembered growing up with live trees every holiday season.
“I love real trees. When I was a kid, we used to get real trees every year, but we haven’t been able to afford them, so this is nice,” she conveyed.
Lisa, her husband Spc. Christian Thorpe of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, and their son Tristan perused each tree carefully before selecting the perfect one.
Adorned with messages and holiday greetings from supporters and donors, the array of fragrant, live trees of varying shapes and sizes made choosing one quite a task.
Several volunteers were on hand to help Soldiers and families transport their trees once they made their selections.
Spc. Gary Bertelsen, Regimental Engineering Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, can’t be with his family in Tacoma, Washington, so he decided to volunteer and bring some holiday cheer to others.
“I don’t really have a lot of family around the area for the holidays,” he explained. “So I thought I’d do some things that would help out the other families, bring joy to other people.”
Pvt. Jonah Detzel, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, just returned from an eight-month rotation in Europe and was excited to pick out his and his wife’s first Christmas tree. He expressed the special treatment was a welcome change.
“I think it’s really important because … especially for me being junior enlisted, sometimes it feels like we’re sort of brushed aside when it comes to the bigger holiday functions because we aren’t in command as much as some of our higher-ranking superiors are,” he explained. “So … for us to be put first and to be afforded the opportunity to come in here and pick our version of our own Christmas spirit, I think … this is definitely like the biggest morale booster I’ve witnessed thus far in my time in the Army.”