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NEWS | Dec. 7, 2020

Special event provides military families with holiday trees

By Rachel Kersey 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base San Antonio hosted special events last week to help cheer military families. On three area installations, Trees for Troops was welcomed to complete the delivery of hundreds of Christmas trees, which were offered for free to San Antonio military families.  

“The purpose of Trees for Troops is to deliver the spirit of Christmas to our military families -- one Christmas tree at a time,” said Nicole Dean, recreation assistant at JBSA-Lackland Outdoor Recreation. “Giving away free Christmas trees to our active duty members and their families puts a smile on their faces.” 

According to Rick Dungey, Christmas Spirit Foundation executive director, Trees for Troops has been going on for 16 years. In that time, they have delivered more than 240,000 trees to military families and troops in the U.S. and overseas. 

The team at JBSA’s Outdoor Recreation facilities began putting together this year’s event during summer. Together, with FedEx and the Christmas Spirit Foundation, they procured tree donations from as far away as New Hampshire and Vermont.  

Trees are gathered at farms and retail lots, about 55 total locations, and picked up by FedEx Freight, Dungey said. They route the trees through their distribution centers and move them around in different trailers, depending on the delivery routes or locations, then to military installations, he explained. 

Once in San Antonio, the event couldn’t happen without the help of the volunteers, and at JBSA-Lackland, the 802nd Security Forces Squadron. 

“It is always nice to work hand-in-hand with Security Forces,” Dean said. “We give them a heads-up when the truck is expected to be at the gate, and every year it is a quick process on their end to get the truck on base.” 

After the truck arrives, volunteers unload and arrange the trees on a field. They also assist families with finding the perfect tree and loading the trees into vehicles.  

Every year, the number of tree donations fluctuates. This year an estimated 15,000 trees were donated nationwide, delivered to 79 military installations. 

“Honestly, I’m just glad we were able to still do the program this year,” said Dungey, considering the global pandemic. “When we started contacting bases, nobody knew what was going to happen in December in terms of restrictions and protocols. We’ve had to make some adjustments to follow guidelines, the bases and the carrier have specific protocols to follow, but the enthusiasm and commitment to the program has never wavered. We’re just happy to still be able to provide some Christmas spirit to military members and families.” 

(Editor’s note: The mention of non-federal organizations is simply informational and not intended to imply endorsement by the U.S. Government, the DOD, or the U.S. Air Force.)