When my husband was deployed to Afghanistan, he often mentioned how depressingly sandy and brown it was there. He dreamed of seeing anything green and alive that would remind him of home. Imagine the impact on his unit when they received a live Christmas tree from America at their forward operating base. With a live tree, they could touch and see and smell a piece of home. Those Marines decorated their tree and smiled whenever they saw it. It lifted their spirits in a way that very few things can when you are deployed at Christmastime.
Trees for Troops – Bringing Christmas Cheer to Military Members & Families
How do you get a living Christmas tree from America to our troops overseas? It’s not Christmas magic. It’s a program called Trees for Troops. This non-profit organization works with local farmers and numerous donations to bring the Christmas spirit to military families. Since 2005, FedEx has partnered with the Christmas Spirit Foundation to ship the trees to service members deployed overseas, or to their families living at military bases around the country.
Yes, military families can benefit too! In fact, my family has enjoyed the benefits of this wonderful program. When my husband was deployed over Christmastime, we weren’t able to go to a tree farm together and pick out a tree – one of our holiday traditions. If I went alone, I wasn’t sure I would be able to load a tree onto our van by myself. In addition, I was disappointed to learn that trees are close to $100 in the expensive area where we are stationed. We couldn’t afford a fake tree, and with the cost of Christmas gifts, I wasn’t even sure we could buy a real one.
Thankfully, Trees for Troops came to the rescue and saved our deployment Christmas. They delivered an enormous quantity of free trees to our military base. All we had to do was drive to the delivery spot and claim one! A team of volunteers was there, ready to help each family load their tree and secure it to their car. It was amazing to think about how many people had donated time or money to bring us our tree: from the farmers, to the volunteers, FedEx, and anyone who made a donation to the organization. As a result of their efforts, my kids had a real Christmas tree, and our house was filled with Christmas spirit.
Trees for Troops Weekend – First Weekend in Dec.
Trees for Troops has impacted many families and individuals. Since 2005, the organization has collected and donated over 176,000 trees for military families. FedEx has logged over 653,400 miles for this charity in the United States alone. They deliver the Christmas trees to 65 military bases, either in the U.S. or overseas.
Every year, “Trees for Troops Weekend” is the first weekend of December. On these dates, collection sites around the country use a trailer provided by FedEx to gather trees and donations. Last year, 25 sites participated, and they collected over 5,000 trees. Thousands of volunteers and many generous donations make this effort possible. Trees are then donated to military troops and their families at military installations on the first and second weekends of December.
Trees for Troops Eligibility
If you are a military family or service member who wants to receive a free Christmas tree, you can learn more from your base Family Readiness Program, or from the Christmas Spirit Foundation website. The Christmas Spirit Foundation publishes a list of bases they work with, but they don’t set the eligibility requirements. They work with each base to deliver the trees, but leave it up to the bases to determine how they will distribute them.
The main point of contact should be your Family Readiness Program – Airman and Family Readiness Center, Army Community Services, Marine Corps Community Services, Fleet and Family Readiness Center, Coast Guard Work-Life Office or Military Service Family Center, or similar program for military members.
Each base can create their own distribution criteria, which is often based on need, rank, family members of deployed servicemembers, or even a first-come-first-served basis. It’s important to contact your base POC for specific details for your location.
2017 Participating Trees for Troops Locations:
Here are the participating locations and dates for 2017 (note, some of these dates are on the first and second weekends of December):
|Rock Island Arsenal||30-Nov||Illinois|
|Naval Station Great Lakes||1-Dec PM||Illinois|
|Fort Leonard Wood||1-Dec||Missouri|
|Kirtland AFB||8-Dec||New Mexico|
|USAG West Point||5-Dec||New York|
|National Guard - NY Rochester||30-Nov||New York|
|NYS Armory - Syracuse||1-Dec||New York|
|Fort Drum||4-Dec||New York|
|Base Elizabeth City||7-Dec||North Carolina|
|USCG Sector Buffalo||5-Dec||New York|
|JEB Fort Story||1-Dec||Virginia|
|Fort Meade||1-Dec PM||Maryland|
|TRACEN Petaluma Coast Guard Base||8-Dec||California|
|Training Center Cape May||tbd||New Jersey|
|Base Cape Cod||29-Nov||Massachusetts|
|NSA Panama City||1-Dec||Florida|
|Hunter Army Airfield||1-Dec||Georgia|
|Base Charleston||1-Dec||South Carolina|
|Fort Bragg||1-Dec||North Carolina|
|Sector Field Office Fort Macon||1-Dec||North Carolina|
|USCG Base New Orleans||5-Dec||Louisiana|
|Naval Station Everett/Naval Radio Station Jim Creek||1-Dec||Washington|
|NASJRB Fort Worth||1-Dec||Texas|
|JRTC & Fort Polk||1-Dec||Louisiana|
|NASJRB New Orleans||8-Dec||Louisiana|
|Ellsworth AFB||1-Dec||South Dakota|
|Cannon AFB||8-Dec||New Mexico|
|NAS Corpus Christi||1-Dec||Texas|
|NOTU Cape Canaveral||8-Dec||Florida|
|Lincoln Military Housing||7-Dec||California|
|NSB Kings Bay||8-Dec||Georgia|
|MCLB - Barstow||7-Dec||California|
|NAS Key West||7-Dec||Florida|
|NAS Whiting Field||1-Dec||Florida|
|Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station||29-Nov||New York|
|JB Fort Eustis||30-Nov||Virginia|
How You Can Help the Trees for Troops Program
If you want to make a donation or get involved, here are some ways you can help out:
- From the Trees for Troops website, buy a tree or make a tax-deductible donation towards the One Thousand Trees Campaign. $40 will send a tree to a deployed unit or a military family.
- If you are a federal employee, select #12283 in the Combined Federal Campaign.
- Visit a participating farm during Trees for Troops weekend to volunteer or donate. There is a list of participating locations on the Trees for Troops website.
- When you buy your own family’s tree, ask if your vendor is involved in the Trees for Troops program. They may accept donations on the spot.
- If you are employed, ask if your company will match your contribution, since it is to a 501c3 nonprofit organization.
- Finally, follow Trees for Troops on social media, and share their posts so more people can learn about this program!
Since Trees for Troops is a program that can benefit both service members deployed overseas and military families stationed stateside, it is important to spread the word and let others know about this resource.
Are you able to get free Christmas trees on your military base?