“We’re very excited to have a real tree,” Krystal Jolly said Thursday as she waited in line at Fort Gordon for one of the 425 trees given away to active-duty troops and their families.
The annual event drew a long line of soldiers, Marines and sailors, along with spouses pushing strollers. Jolly, who married into the Army three years ago, had her Christmas decorations up the day after Thanksgiving. She won’t make it home to San Antonio this year, but hanging ornaments on the tree will be a nice distraction, she said.
Petra Toohuy has spent only two of the past six Christmases with her husband, so she’s glad to have him home this year. She’s used to an artificial tree, but a live one this year will be a welcome change. The ornaments collected over the years are what make each Christmas special, regardless of where they are living, Toohuy said.
At exactly 4 p.m., a group of volunteers with heavy gloves began distributing the trees stacked under a tent. Soldiers hoisted the trees wrapped in white nets onto their shoulders and threaded their way through the crowd to a parking lot packed with cars. It’s a scene that’s being repeated at military installations around the world as the nonprofit Trees for Troops distributes its donations for the year.
Renee Brent, the outreach coordinator for the Soldier and Family Assistance Center, said she felt like Santa Claus on Thursday escorting the trees onto post. Even with America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, there will always be troops overseas keeping the peace. A live Christmas tree is special for the families without loved ones this year, she said.
“If we can brighten someone’s Christmas, then our work here is done,” she said.