With the flick of a switch, Jennifer Schubert’s two children, ages 2 and 6, marveled at the 10-foot-tall Fraser fir lighting up her family’s Augusta home.
The tree, one of 500 donated Thursday to low-ranking active-duty military personnel and their families during Fort Gordon’s sixth annual Trees for Troops giveaway, glowed with multicolored lights and tinsel.
It just needed one thing though – a soldier to top it with the ceremonial star.
“This could be our first Christmas without daddy,” Schubert said of her husband, Sgt. Donald Schubert of the Army’s 67th Expeditionary Signal Battalion.
Fort Gordon officials said Thursday it is possible Schubert’s unit could return by early next week but no plans have been set.
Jennifer Schubert said her family is expecting a cyber-Christmas – a gift unwrapping shared through social media.
She said the tree donated Thursday by The Christmas Spirit Foundation and FedEx could make her house look like normal and help her children cope with the possibility their dad won’t be home for the holidays.
“It’s going to be different, but we are going to try to make it as close to usual as possible,” Schubert said.
The annual event drew a long line of soldiers, Marines and sailors whose families were either strapped for cash because of unforeseen bills or at their third duty station.
When Stephanie Diaz and her husband Sgt. Adrian Diaz moved to Fort Gordon in July, they promised their two children, Cameron, 10, and Arielle, 4, a live tree this year to make their new house a home.
“We’re starting a new tradition,” Stephanie Diaz said.
At exactly 4 p.m., a group of 15 volunteers from the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, an Army community service organization, began distributing the trees.
They hoisted evergreens 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 60 military installations worldwide.
“All we do is grab and go,” said Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Vann, the president of the Fort Gordon Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.
Vann said the event represents the reason for the season, providing aid to a family that might be sweating financial stress.