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By Sgt. Andrew Valenza, New York National Guard
BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. – Two dozen New York National Guard Soldiers helped spread the holiday spirit by volunteering to load donated Christmas trees bound for service members and their families across the country.
The Soldiers joined veterans and Gold Star and Blue Star families at Ellms Family Farm in Ballston Spa Nov. 28 to load 100 trees into a FedEx truck. The trees go to military bases and are distributed to military families as part of Trees for Troops, a Christmas Spirit Foundation charitable initiative.
The event was a chance to give back to the community and other Soldiers, said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Cossey, a member of the 42nd Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade Headquarters Company.
“I figured it was something I could do on my way down to work and help out the troops that are deployed overseas,” Cossey said.
Cossey has had experience working with unit rear detachments, supporting troops deployed overseas and their families back home in New York.
He understands the importance of family and community connections, especially during the holidays, Cossey said.
“You know, when it comes to the importance of family and togetherness, them being separate from everybody, anything we can do to make them feel a little bit closer to home,” Cossey said.
“That’s what we really try to do on top of all the rear detachment work that we do, to try and send as many care packages as possible that we can over there. This just seems another thing to add on top of that, specific to the holiday season itself,” he said.
The Trees for Troops program began in 2005, when FedEx Corp. delivered more than 4,300 Christmas trees to five U.S. military bases and to the Middle East.
Ellms Family Farm started supporting Trees for Troops 18 years ago, during some of the peak years of New York National Guard deployments overseas, said Garth Ellms, owner of the firm.
It started when they saw images of troops celebrating the holidays in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, with Christmas trees decorating faraway bases and combat outposts.
“Once you hear this story from somebody that’s received a tree, everything’s worth it,” Ellms said.
“Because when you’re away from your family, that smell of a real Christmas tree, it ties them back to probably a tradition that they did with their family as a child. And the feedback from that and the comments that we’ve gotten is just that’s why we do it,” he explained.
The event has become an annual tradition, with 12 farms in the region donating trees.
Over 17 years, Trees for Troops has delivered 277,001 trees to military families and troops. More than 15,000 trees will be distributed to 84 U.S. military bases in 2022.
“It’s all about morale, honestly, from a day-to-day basis,” said New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Moseman, one of a dozen recruiters who supported the event as a tribute to fellow Soldiers and Airmen overseas for the holidays. “When they get things like this, it definitely brings up the morale, and it keeps them in the fight.”
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