The holidays are for family, a time to gather and create lasting memories. But when you serve in the military, often times you spend the season away from home. Which is why local Christmas tree growers are so driven to bring the holidays to them.
At Whispering Pines Tree Farm in Oconto – it is a busy time of year. As trees are harvested, bailed and packed for delivery around the state.
But for the last 11 years owner Dave Vander Velden has also made it a point to donate 40 of his Christmas trees to the non-profit Trees for Troops program.
“I’m not a vet myself, but we owe so much to our people who protect us and help us and to be able to celebrate Christmas the way we do,” said Vander Velden. “We owe so much to our armed services.”
For 12 years Christmas tree growers across the country have been donating some of their crop. This year Wisconsin growers will donate 600 of the 17,000 trees to be shipped to troops worldwide.
“They are looking for that feeling of being at home, just a bright spot in a tough job,” said Ann O’Conner, executive director of Trees for Troops.
Since the program started in 2005, 191,000 trees have been gifted to service men and women in all five branches of the military. This year they are heading to 67 bases in the U.S. and three overseas.
“These go to bases, generally they want a smaller tree because they have smaller homes and we give them a six-foot tree and they really seem to enjoy them,” Vander Velden said.
“Having that in their home on base is a great reminder of the family times they were able to share in the past,” O’Conner said.
Vander Velden often includes a note of thanks on some of the trees, which he’ll deliver to Lambeau Field later this month for pick-up and delivery by FedEx.
“’It’s very important to just pass a thank you to them,” said Vander Velden.
A personal message to honor our troop, so far away from home during the holidays.
Thirty-six Christmas tree growers in Wisconsin are participating this year.