FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — For many, the holiday season means putting up the tree and decorating it with care.
Trees for Troops helped to ensure those traditions continue with more than 600 fresh Christmas trees donated to Fort Cavazos and given out to Soldiers and DOD ID card holders Dec. 8 and 9 at the Phantom Warrior Stadium here.
The annual event is sponsored by the Christmas Spirit Foundation, which provides free farm-grown trees to service members in all branches of the U.S. military and their families, and FedEx, which delivered the trees to the Great Place.
Summer Inwood, chief of sports, fitness and aquatics with Fort Cavazos Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, explained why lower enlisted Soldiers had first pick of the trees.
“We just do it because we know they don’t make a lot,” she said. “Their sacrifices are just the same as the officers and the upper enlisted, they just don’t get the same paycheck. And so, we want to make sure that they get the Christmas decorations, and their families get to experience what really the holidays are all about.”
Festive aromas pierced the air and helped usher in the celebratory season as lower enlisted Soldiers and family members were ushered in, 10 at a time, to select the perfect tree.
Though the growers couldn’t greet each recipient personally, they sent their well wishes in personalized messages attached to many of the trees for the new owners to enjoy.
Size and appearance factored heavily into the decision to take trees home, but more importantly, it was about the grandeur of the gesture.
Spc. William Workman, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, his wife Beth and daughter Emilee have participated in the event twice previously and this year, the family was set on a tall tree with full foliage.
But Workman conveyed the true reason he was grateful for the holiday tradition.
“It means a lot to know that folks go through and take their time to donate all these trees, so all of these other Soldiers have the opportunity to have a tree,” he said.
Spc. Karina Machado, 553 Division Sustainment Support Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade, also had her eye on a tall, green, fluffy and full tree to take home to her husband and two children.
She explained that this time of year can be expensive, and the free tree is appreciated.
“Sometimes during the holidays, someone can’t afford one and it’s a really great gesture for you guys to help E-4 and below,” she said referring to the Trees for Troops program.
Spc. Haku Thomson, 553 Div. Sustainment Support Bn., 1st Cav. Div. Sustainment Bde., shared that this was his first time having a live tree for his wife and daughter, and that the gesture made him feel special.
“It’s amazing because I’m from the islands so we don’t get these trees in the islands, so to get this for the first time, my first Christmas, it’s really nice,” he said. “I think it’s really good for us E-4 and below.”
Soldiers and their families enjoyed some assistance from the Fort Cavazos Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program. Thirty BOSS volunteers donned in Santa hats helped patrons select and load their trees.
“There’s nothing better than the Soldiers being able to come to Phantom Warrior Stadium and get help getting a Christmas tree from our BOSS representatives,” said BOSS President Cpl. Kandice Pritchard-Harmon. “I’m very proud that we are out here today being able to help our fellow battle buddies and their families.”