News: ‘Raiders’ augment JBLM Trees for Troops program
Story by Sgt. Kimberly Lessmeister
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – This holiday season, approximately 600 service members of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., received a free evergreen tree, commonly referred to as a “Christmas tree,” thanks to the Trees for Troops program.
Soldiers in the rank of private through sergeant showed their military identification cards to members of the Northwest Adventure Center, Dec. 4, here, and a 4-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division “Raider” Soldier helped load a tree ranging from 5 feet to 8 feet on or in the vehicle.
The 4-2 SBCT Soldiers also helped unload the trees from trucks the day prior, organize them by height, and then pass them out.
Laura Lan, the director of outdoor recreation for the base, and her staff coordinated the event with garrison command.
“I’ve been here doing this for 10 years now (and) it was happening before I was here,” Lan explained. “It came from the Christmas Spirit Foundation and they’re the ones who actually make the contact with the (tree farms).”
According to the Christmas Spirit Foundation website, “tree growers and individuals around the country donate the trees while FedEx provides the shipping for them.”
The website also states that “the Trees for Troops program has delivered more than 122,000 trees to military families in the U.S. and to troops stationed overseas in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar and Spain.”
Within the first hour of passing out trees here, the team gave away 143 trees, said Lan.
“I’m very happy that we’re able to do it,” said Lan. “It’s a nice Christmas gesture.”
Col. Jody Miller, the 4-2 SBCT commander, said he had volunteered to help pass out trees for Trees for Troops when he was stationed at Fort Benning, Ga.
“What I have almost always found to be the case is that you get more out of the deal because you spend the day bringing joy and Christmas cheer into the lives of others and that has a very pronounced psychological affect on those people,” Miller said.
Miller was glad that his Soldiers participated in the program to help out the local community, he said.
“How do we close out our adventure here as the Raider Brigade so that when we depart and our brigade no longer exists, that there’s a good feeling in peoples’ hearts and they were glad to have had the Raider Brigade around?” Miller said. “Because we have, in turn, given back to others and shown our appreciation for when they took such good care of our brigade.”
Meanwhile, the donated tree means service members can spend the money they saved elsewhere, Miller said.
“They get to have a nice Christmas tree and then that allows them to repurpose those funds into Christmas presents for their children or a fun activity at Christmastime,” explained Miller. “Maybe that helps them with travel plans.”
Lan said she thinks Trees for Troops is a great program and she sees a future for it on JBLM.
“I think that definitely, as long as I’m here, we will continue to do this,” Lan said. “As long as there’s trees and the donation comes, we’ll continue to do this.”