A little drizzle couldn’t keep folks from coming out Tuesday morning for the annual Trees for Troops campaign on Fort Benning.
Close to 570 trees were distributed to active duty soldiers and their families beginning at 10 a.m. By 11 a.m., almost every evergreen had been hauled away. The trees were donated by Christmas tree growers through the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx Corp.
“The turnout is awesome. As you’ll see there’s a line all the way out to the road,” said Nicole Fischer with the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation during the height of the giveaway.
Handfuls of people began lining up in the parking lot of the main post car wash close to 8 a.m., said Amanda Farris with Fort Benning’s Outdoor Recreation and Equipment Resource Center.
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Spc. Joalice Andino-Valles was not one of them; however, she still managed to stake her claim to a healthy looking Fraser fir. Andino-Valles said she’s excited to share her find with her two boys, ages 5 and 3 months. Unfortunately, the children will celebrate this Christmas without their father, who’s a member of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and currently deployed to Iraq.
“I think it’s great because it helps a lot with deployed soldiers,” Andino-Valles said. “My husband is actually deployed right now so it really does help a lot with not having to go out and look for one and buy one.”
FedEx shipped the fresh firs and pines to Fort Benning from tree farms in New York. The post received fewer trees this year compared to last holiday season because the 3rd Brigade is absent, Farris said. Still, the crowds came.
“We figured a lot of wives were going to be gone, but I think a lot of them stayed,” Farris laughed. In the end, the tree supply did meet the great demand and hundreds of people went home happy.
This year’s Trees for Troops campaign kicked off Nov. 10 in Columbus, Ohio, with the pickup and delivery of about 200 trees destined for Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. Service members stationed in Bahrain will also receive an international shipment of approximately 100 trees in the coming weeks.
Since the program’s inception in 2005, more than 50,000 real Christmas trees have been distributed to families in every branch of the military at 50-plus bases in 17 countries. FedEx provides all the transportation and logistical services to the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, which is the National Christmas Tree Association’s nonprofit branch. Throughout the holiday season, Trees for Troops will deliver more than 15,000 Christmas trees to more than 50 military facilities in the United States and abroad.