Charlton, N.Y. (Army News Service, Dec. 12, 2007) - Volunteers from the New York National Guard's 42nd Infantry (Rainbow) Division spread holiday cheer by helping load donated Christmas trees bound for overseas troops and Army Families stationed across the United States.

The five Soldiers joined local tree farmers, veterans and military Families at Ellms Tree Farms Nov. 28 to load a FedEx delivery truck with nearly 150 Christmas trees, all bound for Fort Drum, N.Y., and the Army's 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).

The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx - in cooperation with the National Christmas Tree Association - organized the nationwide effort called Trees for Troops to boost the Christmas spirit for U.S. servicemembers.

"It sends that message that somebody cares, you know, here's a package from home - it's a big package from home, a Christmas tree," said Chip Ellms, Ellms Tree Farm owner.

Trees for Troops will deliver real Christmas trees to the Families of troops serving in the military for the third consecutive year. In the coming weeks, tree growers, retailers and FedEx Corp. will be donating and delivering more than 17,000 trees to more than 35 bases in the United States and overseas, including bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Qatar.

"It's tough to be away on Christmas in a war zone," said 1st Sgt. Tony Coluccio, as he helped load the truck.

"You hear on the TV stations a lot of negative stuff about the war, and when this came out there were a lot of people who came forward and said, 'We want to support the troops.' Soldiers are getting something from home they can feel and touch," said Mr. Ellms.

The 2007 program launched on Nov. 13 with the gathering of 300 trees from Ohio's Operation Evergreen and the Indiana Christmas Tree Association for overseas bases, with another 100 trees departing on Wednesday, Nov. 28 for Bahrain and the Navy's Fifth Fleet. The pickup and deliveries of trees going to Families at U.S. bases will continued through early December.

"It gets your mind off the war, a little thing from home," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Brunner, who spent last Christmas in Iraq.

The shipment of trees also included handwritten holiday messages for servicemembers and their Families from area schoolchildren. Messages included "Thanks for defending our country," "Come home safely" and "Good luck in the war - I hope you all come back."

Program organizers expect to deliver 5,000 more trees than in past years.

"We never dreamed it would get this big," said Mr. Ellms. "We were just a bunch of local farmers, and then we knew other farmers, and they knew others."

"It means a lot when you're over there," said Sgt. Launa Dupigny.

(Lt. Col. Richard Goldenberg serves with the 42nd Infantry Division, New York National Guard.)