View Full Version : New Yorkers Send Christmas Trees to Troops in the Middle East

12-14-05, 06:58 PM
New Yorkers Send Christmas Trees to Troops in the Middle East
Release Date: 12/14/2005 12:30:00 AM

By Journalist 2nd Class Cassandra Thompson, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- One thousand Christmas trees arrived in Bahrain Dec. 12 to be delivered to forward-deployed service members in the Middle East.

This is the second year in a row that New York businesses and veterans have coordinated with DHL, a worldwide shipping service, to fly Christmas trees to military members in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Bahrain.

Bill Ashton, DHL assistant local affairs director for the Middle East, said DHL planes routinely fly to Bahrain, Iraq and Afghanistan delivering letters and gifts to troops in the area.

When DHL was approached in 2004 by New York businessman Jim Adelis with the idea that would later be coined “DHL Christmas Trees for Troops,” Ashton said it was only logical that the company use their established service to deliver a greater level of happiness to military members.

“We have an extensive air network that we use primarily to move mail to troops in the region,” said Ashton. “But there’s something special about moving Christmas trees for people. A Christmas tree is the perfect thing to brighten up anyone’s day, and it’s amazing when you’re out in the field what a little thing can do to get you through that next day or that next week.”

Ashton said 500 Christmas trees were flown to bases in Iraq, 300 trees were delivered to Afghanistan and 150 trees went to Kuwait. The rest were distributed to commands at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain, including Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and tenant commands at the Aviation Unit. The shipment also included 4,000 boxes of lights and ornaments, and thousands of Christmas cards and letters.

“I can’t think of a better symbol being sent out to the troops that folks back home are thinking of them,” said Cmdr. John Gonzales, Commander, Task Force 53’s air logistics officer, who is overseeing the distribution of the trees from NSA Bahrain’s Aviation Unit. “I think short of getting snow here in Bahrain, the real true symbol of Christmas that we can all recall from our childhood is the Christmas tree.”

All Christmas trees were donated by Dee’s Nursery in New York, but various businesses in the Big Apple contributed the decorations and lights, Gonzales said. Christmas cards and letters written to the troops by New York schoolchildren were included in the shipment.

Gonzales, who is originally from Seattle, said he hoped the program would continue for years to come.

“It’s a pretty successful program and really means a lot to the folks both here on the base and in Iraq and Afghanistan where the majority of the trees are going to go,” said Gonzales.

Storekeeper 2nd Class Karina Rodriguez from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15, a helicopter squadron on a scheduled deployment from Ingleside, Texas, said she was happy to get a tree to brighten her command.

“It’s an incentive for everybody to feel like Christmastime, and home,” said Rodriguez, from Corpus Christi, Texas. “We get so busy here, working 12-on/12-off, and it’s so easy to lose track of the fact that it’s Christmas. I just wanted to take the tree to my command and put it up, so people wouldn’t lose touch with their lives.”