HORSHAM AIR GUARD STATION, Pa. --
More than a dozen Pennsylvania Air National Guard 111th Attack Wing members joined their Pa. Army National Guard teammates and state leadership to provide Yuletide heft Dec. 2, at Bustard's Tree Farm in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.
The military muscle was used to load evergreen trees for The Christmas Spirit Foundation's Trees for Troops program, which are destined for military families and installations in advance of the Christmas holiday.
Now in its 11th year in Pennsylvania, the program nationally has provided more than 176,000 Christmas trees to deployed service members and their families, as well as 65 military installations across the globe. The goal of the program is to deliver a traditional Christmas staple to those who may otherwise not have access or ability to enjoy the evergreens.
"The Trees for Troops program is a national program started in 2005," said Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding. "These trees are an iconic holiday symbol. Even the scent brings back fond memories."
But it's not just about trees themselves, it's also about the sentiments forged during the event.
"This event gives the community a moment to pause and think about those who serve. Two percent of the population are involved with the agriculture production feeding us well; two percent of the population serve [in the military] and allow us to sleep well."
And Pennsylvania is ideally postured to provide for the Tree for Troops program.
"This program today is our statewide kickoff for our [the Pa. Department of Agriculture's] involvement with the Trees for Troops program this year," said Will Nichols, communications representative with the Pa. Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania. According to Nichols, Pennsylvania is the fourth-largest Christmas tree producing state in the U.S. and has the second largest amount of tree farms.
"There are no small gestures of generosity," said Col. Mike Regan, Pennsylvania's deputy adjutant general-air, who served as an event speaker and tree laborer. "I can speak, I'm sure, for the service members behind me, that it is our pleasure and privilege to wear this uniform." He continued by saying that the combined civilian and military community support is vital for Guardsmen to contribute to altruistic events like the Trees for Troops program.
Members of the Pa. National Guard are no strangers to community service and the spirit of volunteering.
"Volunteering to do things for our fellow servicemen and women is just the right thing to do," said base front-line volunteer Senior Airman Ramona Navarro, heavy equipment mechanic with the 201st Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer Squadron, Det. 1. "One day, it'll be me who is deployed. I'm paying it forward."
Bustard's Tree Farm, a family owned business for more than 78 years, has donated more than 2,300 trees to the project over the years said Sarah Bustard, daughter of farm owner.
"We're relatively small in size, but big in heart when it comes to our servicemen," she said.
To learn more about the Trees for Troops program, visit http://www.christmasspiritfoundation.org