Indiana Trees to Brighten Soldiers’ Holidays
GREENFIELD, Ind. (AP) — Hundreds of Christmas trees will make a 7,000-mile trek to pass from one set of Hoosier hands to another.
Representatives from the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Indiana National Guard loaded 125 Christmas trees at Piney Acres Monday. The trees will eventually make their way to the 38th Sustainment Brigade of the Indiana National Guard stationed in Kuwait.
“We know many of those people on the other end that are getting these trees,” said Capt. Greg Hembree, Greenfield. “From the hands of Hoosiers here to the hands of Hoosiers in Kuwait, it’s particularly special.” Though the program is in its eighth year, Hembree said it’s not every day that local trees go to local soldiers.
Once in Kuwait, the Indiana trees – and other trees from around the country – will be distributed to soldiers deployed in the region, according to the Daily Reporter (http://bit.ly/10mbjBL ). It’s part of a larger effort coordinated by FedEx, the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and tree growers across the country. Thousands of other trees will also be distributed to servicemen and women on military bases throughout the country.
Trees for Troops, which has expanded each year, recruits tree farmers across the country to donate fresh-cut live trees to help bring Christmas spirit to troops stationed far from friends and family over the holidays. “It’s nice to be able to go out and help people brighten their day,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Horning.
Horning, a Greenfield native and Cumberland resident, said that while he did not receive a tree through this program while stationed in Iraq from 2005 to 2006, his family sent him a small, artificial Christmas tree. “It was the only green thing to look at,” Horning laughed. “Little things like that go a long way.”
Volunteers from the 76th Infantry Brigade loaded 125 trees into trucks for transport Monday. It’s the first year for this group of Indiana Guard members to be involved with the program, but it’s the fifth year for Piney Acres.
Owner Rex Zenor donated 21 trees himself this year and served as a collection point for trees from other farms in the central Indiana area. Zenor said he participates in the program each year as a way to give back.
“Without these guys, we probably wouldn’t be here,” Zenor said. “It’s all about them.” The event also brings out former mixed martial arts fighter Chris Lytle each year. Lytle retired from the Ultimate Fighting Championship series last year but said many of the troops still know who he is from the tapes they get to watch while overseas.
“A lot of the guys are big UFC fans,” said Lytle, who has traveled around the country to visit with military personnel. “I like to come out and help a little bit.”