It’s a particularly warm December day in Florida, but the Christmas spirit makes its way into the hearts and homes of thousands of military families. It is the day when every local military family has the chance to bring home a free Christmas tree. With the help of FedEx employees, the Trees for Troops organization brings thousands of freshly cut Christmas trees to military bases across the world. At MacDill Air Force Base, this annual tree giving event is highly anticipated.
I arrive at the location half an hour early and there are already dozens of families from all branches of Service ahead of me in line. The smell of freshly cut Christmas trees is enchanting. Holiday music is playing in the background and happiness sparkles in the eyes of the children. Everyone already has their perfect Christmas tree in mind and is anxious to pick it up.
As the hour of choosing a tree approaches, the organizers of the event serve us cookies and hot beverages. They are all smiling and thanking service members for the sacrifices they are making for the country. A sense of pride, accompanied by a smile, appears on the faces of military families present. I feel very fortunate to be part of this large family.
One by one, each person goes to pick out the tree of their choice. Children run and point their parents to the tree they desire. Everyone seems, for that particular moment, to have forgotten about all the worries in the world. FedEx employees help carry the trees to the cars and everyone rushes home to start decorating their new Christmas tree.
Once I select my Christmas tree, I notice it is accompanied by a hand written note thanking the troops for guarding our freedom and wishing them a Merry Christmas. I look closely and notice all of the trees carry the same message. It is a true gesture of respect and appreciation.
Among the events I attended at MacDill Air Force Base, this seems to be the one that brings most smiles and light to the community. Bringing a Christmas tree home becomes a symbol of hope and joy. This year, Santa Claus will have a few more decorated trees to admire as he spreads his gifts around the world.
What is your favorite holiday memory or favorite place you’ve spent the holidays?