BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. — Ten Army National Guard Soldiers from New York’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion volunteered to help send 131 Christmas trees from a Saratoga County tree farm to military families at bases in Virginia and Florida.
The Guard recruiters joined 30 other volunteers at Ellms Family Farm in Ballston Spa on Nov. 28 to load trees donated to the Trees for Troops program on board a truck and dispatch them for shipment by FedEx.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Derrick Zwack said he volunteered because he remembered how seeing a Christmas tree while he was deployed had cheered him up.
“When you are overseas, your fellow Soldiers become like a second family, but you still miss your family back home,” Zwack said. “These trees give us a sense of home when we are away for the holidays.”
Ellms Tree Farm, a Christmas season destination for families throughout the Albany region, has been a collection site for trees for 19 years.
Owner Sally Ellms said she is amazed by the generosity of the local growers.
“When I checked a week ago, we had about 30 trees stacked on the trailer,” Ellms said. “So, I made some phone calls to thank and remind our growers and in our final week, we had another hundred donated.”
Trees for Troops is a national program launched in 2005 by the Christmas Spirit Foundation, and with the help of FedEx, has delivered more than 293,500 trees. Fresh-cut trees are gathered at farm and retail lots, picked up by FedEx and routed through distribution centers for delivery to 84 military bases this holiday season.
This year’s trees from the Albany region are going to a Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia, and an Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida. In previous years, trees have gone to bases in Afghanistan.
Volunteers helping this year included veterans representing all service branches from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Gulf War, the Cold War and the Vietnam War.
Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Moseman said it’s all about giving back.
“It’s a great day when we gather these Soldiers together and load the trees onto the truck,” Moseman said. “With so many service members sacrificing time with their families for the holidays, it feels awesome to do this for them and remind them of how much we care.”