Story by: Lt. Col. Richard Goldenberg - HQ, 42nd Infantry Division
Dated: Wed, Nov 28, 2007
Chip Ellms, owner of Ellms Tree Farms in Charlton, N.Y. displays holiday tree decorations supplied by area schoolchildren for delivery with donated trees from the "Trees for Troops" charity collection on November 28. Ellms and other upstate New York tree farmers donated more than 150 trees for delivery to Fort Drum, N.Y. and the Army’s 10th Mountain Division as part of the program. Local area Citizen Soldiers from the N.Y. Army National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division volunteered to join family members and veterans in loading the trees, scheduled for delivery at Fort Drum on Friday, November 30.
U.S. Army photo by LTC Richard Goldenberg. (RELEASED)
Charlton, N.Y. -- Volunteers from the New York Army National Guard’s 42nd Infantry (Rainbow) Division helped spread holiday cheer this season by helping to load donated Christmas Trees bound for overseas troops and home station families across the United States.
The five volunteer Citizen Soldiers joined local area tree farmers, veterans and military family members at Ellms Tree Farms on November 28 to load a FedEx delivery truck with nearly 150 Christmas Trees, all bound for Fort Drum, N.Y. and the Army’s 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).
The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx - in cooperation with the National Christmas Tree Association - organized this nationwide effort called Trees for Troops to boost the Christmas spirit for U.S. military men and women.
"It sends that message that somebody cares, you know, here’s a package from home; it’s a big package from home, a Christmas Tree,” said Chip Ellms, Ellms Tree Farm Owner.
For the third consecutive year, the Trees for Troops program will deliver real Christmas Trees to the families of troops serving in the military. In the coming weeks, tree growers, retailers and FedEx Corp. will be donating and delivering more than 17,000 trees to more than 35 bases in the United States and overseas, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Qatar.
“It’s tough to be away on Christmas in a war zone,” said 1st Sgt. Tony Coluccio, a National Guard Soldier with the N.Y. Army National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division as he helped load the truck with the wrapped Christmas Trees. Coluccio spent the 2004 holiday season deployed to Samarra, Iraq with the Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry.
“You hear on the TV stations a lot of negative stuff about the war, and when this came out there were a lot of people who came forward and said, we want to support the troops. Soldiers are getting something from home they can feel and touch,” said Ellms Tree Farm owner Chip Ellms.
The 2007 Trees for Troops program launched November 13 when 300 trees from Ohio’s Operation Evergreen and the Indiana Christmas Tree Association were gathered and shipped to overseas bases. The pickup and deliveries of trees going to families at U.S. bases will run through early December with an additional international shipment bound for overseas military bases departing from the FedEx Express shipping hub in Indianapolis on Wednesday, November 28 with 100 trees bound for Bahrain and the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
“It gets your mind off the war, a little thing from home,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Brunner, another volunteer from the 42nd Infantry Division. Brunner spent Christmas last year deployed to Iraq.
The shipment of trees also included handwritten holiday messages from area schoolchildren for troops and their families. Messages included “thanks for defending our country,” “come home safely” and “good luck in the war -- I hope you all come back.”
The 2007 estimate is that more than 17,000 trees will reach troops and families across the country and the world, nearly 5,000 more trees than in past years.
“We never dreamed it would get this big,” said Ellms. “We were just a bunch of local farmers, and then we knew other farmers, and they knew others.”
“It means a lot when you’re over there,” said Sgt. Launa Dupigny who served in Tikrit, Iraq with the 42nd Infantry Division in 2005.