Every year around the holidays, some families experience added stress. Maybe because of visiting relatives, finding the last gift, or cooking for dozens. But for some on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, one stress that is avoided is the buying of a Christmas tree.
Service members and their families arrived at the Northwest Adventure Center on North Fort here to claim a free Christmas tree during this year’s “Trees for Troops” event Dec. 3.
Trees Bring Holiday Cheer
The program is designed to bring holiday cheer to military families by providing a free tree, symbolizing a touch of home, to deployed soldiers and help their families share memories of Christmas, said Laura Lad, director of Outdoor Recreation at the Northwest Adventure Center.
“It felt good to get a Christmas tree,” said Air Force Airman 1st Class Taylor Walker, 627th Airbase Group. “The pressure of paying for a tree is gone so now I can get more into the holiday spirit by decorating it.”
For the families who did not receive a tree on Dec. 3, they received a voucher to come back on Dec. 10 when the next shipment of trees is scheduled to arrive. After the families redeem their vouchers and receive their tree, the remaining trees will be available to any family in the pay grades of E-1 to E-5.
“Trees for Troops” became a national program in 2005 when the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, a charitable organization of the National Christmas Tree Association, unified the individual programs of tree growers and state Christmas Tree Associations. The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation partnered with the FedEx Corporation to ship the Christmas trees from the tree growers and have them delivered to military bases.
Walker was one of hundreds of service members who experienced the joy of a free Christmas tree. If the service member was not available to claim a tree for his or her family, military spouses could pick up the tree with their own ID card.
“This program is awesome,” said Haley Rodriguez, a military spouse who arrived with her daughter to pick up their tree. “They made it convenient for the spouse to come and pick up the tree when the soldier couldn’t. It also helped take of some stress off of trying to buy a tree.”
Troop Morale Booster
Through the cool, brisk air, Rodriguez, Walker and hundreds others left with a free tree and smiling faces.
“It felt great to give trees to the troops,” Lad said. “The program has been going strong for 11 years at the Northwest Adventure Center and longer with the [Morale, Welfare and Recreation office]. Not only is this a great morale booster, but [it’s] a great way to show appreciation for what the soldiers do every day.”
Last year, the base received approximately 800 trees from the program, which were all gone in two and a half days. This year, the base will have more than 1,000 trees to provide to service members.
“The Christmas tree is a symbol to gather around during Christmas,” Rodriguez said. “It wouldn’t feel like home without a Christmas tree; it brings it all together.”