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Trees to lift holiday spirits

Soldiers with 42nd Military Police Brigade unload 950 ‘Trees for Troops’ just in time for the holidays

Northwest Guardian

Published: 01:21PM December 6th, 2012
Trees to lift holiday spirits

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

Sgt. 1st Class Fernando Fas-Quinones, right, and his wife, Staff Sgt. Valerie Fas-Quinones, help unload two of the 950 trees for Soldiers.

Soldiers from the 42nd Military Police Brigade were tasked with a mission Nov. 30 that left them dirty, sweaty and tired, but they still smelled pretty nice.

That’s because they were unloading 950 twine-wrapped pine trees into a private lot at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Northwest Adventure Center as part of the “Trees for Troops” program that annually provides free Christmas trees to deserving military families.

Outdoor recreation director Laura Lad said the trees were donated by the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 2005 as the charitable branch of the National Christmas Tree Association, which supports the farm-grown Christmas tree industry.

According to Christmas SPIRIT Foundation’s website, Trees for Troops was honored at the White House in 2012 as a top 20 national finalist in the “Joining Forces Community Challenge” to honor military families.

It started as an initiative by first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to recognize organizations that provide exemplary service to military members.

“It’s such a great opportunity for us to be able to have Trees for Troops here,” Lad said.

Each year, Trees for Troops partners with FedEx to deliver Christmas trees to military families and troops in the U.S. and at overseas bases, like those located in Spain, Kuwait and Afghanistan. Since its inception, Trees for Troops has provided more than 103,000 trees to about 60 military bases.

FedEx terminal manager Steve Hank has organized the delivery of the trees to JBLM for the past eight years and called it the best part of his job.

“It’s great being a part of the community, supporting our troops who make sacrifices to protect us,” Hank said.

This year, the freight effort to JBLM by FedEx required three delivery trucks stuffed full of a variety of trees collected from Washington and Oregon tree farms.

During a much-needed break from unloading trees, Sgt. 1st Class Fernando Fas-Quinones, operations NCO, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 505th Military Police Battalion, said Christmas trees purchased at tree farms or local Christmas tree stands can be expensive. He added that a handful of Soldiers within his own unit will receive trees, making the Trees for Troops program even more special to him and the task of unloading hundreds of trees a little easier.

“Military families have a lot of economic needs. We deploy fast. We’re constantly on the move and a lot of families experience financial hardship because of it,” Fas-Quinones said. “These trees would cost $40 to $100 easily, and it’s a relief to families to keep that money in their pocket.”

Service members, E-1 through E-5, who received vouchers for trees through their chains of command can stop by the NAC today from noon to 6 p.m. to and pick their Christmas trees. The NAC staff even will trim branches and tree stumps, wrap and load the trees into vehicles.

Beginning Saturday, any military family with an active duty service member can obtain a tree at NAC until all of the trees have been claimed, Lad said. The only requirement is a valid military ID.

“Everybody loves it obviously because we don’t ever have any trees left over,” Lad said. “If anything, we don’t have enough trees.”

The Northwest Adventure Center is located on Lewis North at Building 8050 on NCO Beach Road. For more information, call 967-8282 or 967-7744.