MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The waves crashed along the shore and although the sun shined bright above the sky, the wind blew with a harsh bite. But this bitterly cold weather didn’t freeze the holiday spirit as Marines and employees with Marine Corps Community Services loaded Christmas trees onto every vehicle as it pulled ahead of the never-ending line of cars, trucks and SUVs lined up to receive a free Christmas tree.
Service members and their families gathered Dec. 11, at Onslow Beach as the Christmas Spirit Foundation and FedEx Corporation delivered approximately 1,000 live Christmas trees to military ID card holders.
“This is the fifth year for Trees for Troops and our last stop on the two week venture of delivering about 16,000 trees for US troops and their families this year,” said Pam Helmsing, executive director of the Christmas Spirit Foundation and National Christmas Tree Association. “Our goal was 725 trees, but the driver told me that people kept giving trees and they kept piling them in so we’re going to give them all out.”
Since the Trees for Troops began five years ago, the Christmas Spirit Foundation and FedEx Corporation have collected and delivered more than 65,000 Christmas trees nationwide. The trees collected come from all over the United States and are mainly donated by Christmas tree growers, but then their customers hear about the program and they get involved as well.
“It’s very important to do this,” said Helmsing. “The troops and their families sacrifice so much, they are away from their homes and their families and this is just one way we can say ‘thank you and we are proud of you.’ Hopefully it makes Christmas a little brighter with those families not having to buy a tree. Maybe they can put a little extra present for their kids under the tree, or do something else a little special for Christmas and have a brighter holiday.”
In the United States, the Christmas tree is not only a symbol of the holiday spirit, but a tradition for many American families worldwide.
“Christmas trees are kind of the center of attention during the holidays and it’s great that we can participate and bring all this to the troops who may not have been able to get a tree this year,” said Bobby Hill, FedEx Freight Wilmington service center manager. “This is important to FedEx because it allows us to bring Christmas trees to all the troops, and the service members who are overseas – to bring a tree to their families. We thank (the service members) for their hard work, efforts and sacrifice throughout the year and hope this helps them out a little bit.”
FedEx has about 400 service centers nationwide and they all participate in delivering the trees.
"All the freight charges, labor, handling, work and manpower are contributed free by FedEx,” said Hill. “We bring these trees to about 50 military bases of all services nationwide. We’ve been a part of this for five years, and each year it gets bigger and bigger, and we move more trees.”
In a time where Americans are struggling financially, the country comes together to make sure Christmas happens for those who may not have had a Christmas otherwise.
“I think this is great and this really helps us out this year,” said Cpl. Matthew Kistler, a motor transportation mechanic with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. “A lot of the families out here are having a rough time with the economy and it’s a perfect chance for them to get a free Christmas tree.”
For more information of Trees for Troops or the Christmas Spirit Foundation, visit www.realchristmastrees.org.