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America Supports You: Trees for Troops Brings Christmas to Ike

By Seaman Shanika Futrell, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service

ABOARD USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, Dec. 7, 2006 – Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower have received eight natural Christmas trees from “Trees for Troops.”

Trees for Troops started in Columbus, Ohio, when Federal Express joined forces with the Ohio Christmas Tree Association’s “Operation Evergreen” to donate more than 200 Christmas trees to deployed servicemembers.

“I received an e-mail from 5th Fleet’s chaplain that said there were 20 trees donated from Trees for Troops,” Cmdr. John Maurice, Ike’s command chaplain, said. “I then contacted the supply officer and Sara Dowell, the ‘fun boss,’ so we could decide on the amount of trees we would like to request.”

Maurice then coordinated the delivery. The Christmas trees were set up on the mess decks and decorated by ship crewmembers to bring a sense of home to Ike. “Having the trees and being able to decorate them reminds us all of home and being around the people we love,” Maurice said.

While decorating the Christmas trees, sailors shared holiday spirit with shipmates. “I helped decorate one of the trees, and I think the spirit of the holidays brings out the best of us,” Seaman Abel Jimenez said. “No matter how far away from family we are, our love is still the same.”

Celebrating holidays is important to deployed sailors because it brings back memories of holidays spent with their families. “It is important to celebrate the holidays on the ship because the crew needs to break up monotony,” Dowell said. “It’s a good break from the regular day-to-day work schedule.”

Christmas is traditionally one of the most cherished holidays of the year, and while out to sea, some sailors dedicated their time to help lift others’ spirits.

“Christmas is the time of the year where we can lift our spirits, where most people can hum and sing different carols and songs,” Maurice said. “It’s also the time of the year to reminisce on the happy times, eat different foods, have parties and give gifts.”

The trees bring back the memories for many sailors on the Ike. “Natural trees have a nice cedar scent,” Dowell said. “It gives a sense of being at home for the holidays, and the trees alone make the mess decks look festive.

“Sailors aboard Ike had fun, especially the ones who helped decorate. It’s nice to see people caring about us by sending the trees to the ship.”

Maurice said he plans to thank Trees for Troops for their support and generosity during the holiday season. “We will send a letter to Trees for Troops to show who benefited and extend our gratitude,” he said. “Somebody somewhere sacrificed their time and income for our morale, which is certainly along the lines of the Christmas holidays, the time for giving and sharing.”

Ike departed its homeport of Norfolk, Va., on Oct. 3, with the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of maritime security operations. Ike and embarked Carrier Air Wing 7 have been flying missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan since Nov. 6.

(Navy Seaman Shanika Futrell is assigned to the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.)

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