Approximately 940 Fort Hood families received a free Christmas tree this year during the 17th annual Trees for Troops tree giveaway Friday at Hood Stadium.

“This is the least we can do for our Soldiers who protect us every day, give them something back to celebrate the Christmas season,” Monty Campbell, sports specialist with the Fort Hood Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare & Recreation, said about the event.

Trees for Troops provides free Christmas trees during the first week of December. For many of the Soldiers who received a tree Friday, this year marks the first real tree they would have, so they took their time going through the hundreds of trees to pick the perfect Christmas tree for their family. The trees are provided, first-come-first-serve, to troops in the ranks of E-1 to E-4 first. Due to the large number of trees this year – 2.5 times more than normal – this year’s event was also opened up to E-5 and above.

Created by the Christmas Spirit Foundation in 2005, Trees for Troops has delivered more than 260,000 live Christmas trees to servicemen and women by FedEx, a corporate sponsor of the organization. All the trees are grown on tree farms spanning across 24 states.

“Trees for Troops is our way to give back to those who have sacrificed so much for our safety and liberty in the U.S.,” Lance Moll, president and CEO of FedEx Freight, said in a press release. “We are honored to lend our world-class operations network to the Christmas Spirit Foundation and be able to bring a little joy, gratitude, and encouragement to military families across the country.”

DFMWR was grateful for the 30 volunteers from Fort Hood’s Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program. Spc. Andre Bramham, BOSS president, said the volunteers helped families take their trees to their vehicles and tie them down.

“I really enjoyed seeing the families come out for the holidays,” Bramham said. “It’s really good spreading the holiday cheer.”

Campbell said Trees for Troops is just one way Americans have the opportunity to thank service members and their families for the sacrifices they make. He said there is something special about a real Christmas tree that many Soldiers are maybe experiencing for the first time ever.

“I like the smell of a real tree,” Kedwin Rosario, husband of Spc. Naudy Rosario, 297th Transportation Company, 61st Quartermaster Battalion, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, said. “It brings that Christmas spirit.”

Each tree included a personal message attached by the person who donated the tree to Trees for Troops. Spc. Robert Barbeau, 2nd Bn., 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and his wife Kaley said they always take a moment to thank the person donating the tree.

“It’s awesome,” Barbeau said. “We always try to thank the people by sending them a picture back of the decorated tree.”

This year, an estimated 14,500 total trees were picked up from 55 locations and delivered to 77 different bases of all branches of the military. For more information about Trees for Troops, visit www.christmasspiritfoundation.org.

“We’ve had a wonderful time,” Campbell added about the event. “It’s a beautiful thing to see the smiles.”