By Matt Reese
Once again this year, the day after Veteran’s Day, 100 Christmas trees were packed up and shipped off to military units overseas through a partnership between the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Ohio Christmas Tree Association for the Operation Evergreen Program. Christmas tree growers from around Ohio donate the trees and deliver them to the ODA where nursery inspectors certify they are free from pests and disease. Both groups come together at ODA to wrap, load up and send the trees to military members stationed overseas. This is the 24th year for the program that got its start in Ohio. The trees cost $150 a tree for shipping and the expenses are covered through donations.
“This year we are sending the trees overseas to Kuwait. They leave and get to Kuwait in two weeks and then they get dispersed to the bases in the area,” said Valarie Graham with the Ohio Christmas Tree Association. “It is always great to participate in this program. They appreciate what we are doing. When they get these packages from the United States from Ohio it is so touching. This is a great service project.”
Students at Cory-Rawson Elementary in the classes of Mrs. Warren and Mrs. Wagner made some ornaments and included a note with an email address to send with the Operation Evergreen trees. Mrs. Warren recently received this email:
I just wanted to express my gratitude on behalf of all of Alpha Company, Special Troops Battalion, 1st Theater Sustainment Command for the Christmas decorations. It is always nice to have a little bit of home all the way out here in Kuwait. Please give my thanks to the First Graders and have a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season.
Aaron D. Carpenter
Alpha Company Commander
Special Troops Battalion
1st Theater Sustainment Command
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
Mrs. Wagner got this one:
I’d like to extend our sincerest THANK YOU to you and your class for the Christmas ornaments. Although we all believe we’re brothers and sisters in the military, the holidays are definitely a little different around here as, for many of us, this is our first Christmas away from home.
To give you the back story on how we got your ornaments: On 28 Nov we celebrated Thanksgiving in the chow hall with a massive spread of turkey, stuffing, and everything else we would normally have back home. I was sitting with my team and we were discussing how we’d be celebrating Christmas together. To help get into the spirit, we stopped by one of the organizations on base that was giving out Christmas trees but we weren’t sure how we’d acquire ornaments. When we opened the box that the tree came in, your class’ ornaments were there! You and your class have definitely made a difference for all of us out here and my team and we appreciate you very much. I would love to send a picture of the tree. However, we work in a secure compound where cameras/phones aren’t allowed. You’ll just have to trust that it looks perfect.
We sat down and discussed what information from out here would be important to pass back to 1st Graders. Here’s what we came up with:
-Kuwait, where we are, is a small country off the Arabian/Persian Gulf. During the summer, it gets up to 120 degrees and during the winter it can get as cold as 50 degrees.
-My team validates and coordinates all logistical requirements in CENTCOM… which is a fancy way of saying we move everything from the smallest people to the largest military vehicles.
-There is ice cream at the chow hall!
-We miss our families very much but we get to FaceTime every day, so we at least get to see each other (which is way better than the old days when we used to have to stand in line for a 15 minute phone call home!).
-In Kuwait, it’s 8 hours ahead of your time. We start our work day at midnight (Kuwait time) which is 4pm your time, probably shortly after the kids go home from school.
If there’s any other questions your class needs answered, please don’t hesitate to reach out!
Again, thank you very much. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Joe Flescher, Capt, USAF
CENTCOM Deployment and Distribution Operations Center
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
What a lesson for these elementary students in service to others! Doing a little good has a way of multiplying, especially, it seems, when it is mixed in with just a bit of holiday magic.
Proverbs 3:27: Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.