The Free Military Christmas Tree Program Is a Little Different This Year Thanks to COVID

U.S. Marine volunteers during Trees for Troops event.
U.S. Marine volunteers tie a tree to the roof of a car during the 14th annual Trees for Troops event at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, Dec. 6, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Alexandra Amor Santos Arambulo)

Just in time for the holidays, free Christmas trees for military members will soon be heading to military bases across the U.S. -- but no farther.

The free tree distribution is once again being organized and overseen by the Christmas Spirit Foundation's Trees for Troops program.

Beginning the first week of December, over 14,500 trees donated by tree farmers and the general public will be sent to bases across the country to be given to military members and their families.

In the past, the organization has worked to send donated trees to such far-flung locations as bases in Iraq and Navy ships at sea to make the holidays just a bit brighter for deployed service members.

But this year, the COVID-19 outbreak forced the organization to suspend international distribution of the trees, said Rick Dungey, executive director of the Christmas Spirit foundation. About 80 stateside bases will be taking part in this year's free tree distribution.

See a listing of bases holding free tree distribution this year.

This marks the 16th consecutive year that the program will be distributing trees. Since its inception, the program has given out nearly 245,000 trees.

Besides donating trees to the program, Christmas tree retailers across the country also gather cash donations or allow customers to buy a tree and donate it to the program and leave a personalized message on the tree.

This year each one of the donated trees will have a special tag attached to it with a personal holiday message sending thanks to military members, remembering an individual veteran or just wishing a Merry Christmas to military families.

While the trees are being shipped to military bases during the first week of December, it's up to each individual base to decide when and how the trees will be distributed. Some limit tree distribution to E-5 and below while others have designated days for families of deployed personnel to pick up their special tree this year.

Dungey said that anyone interested in a free tree should check out their individual base's social media channels for specific information on how to receive a donated tree.

Military members and civilian government employees can donate to Trees for Troops and the Christmas Spirit Foundation via the Combined Federal Campaign by selecting charity #12283 on their donation form. The charity also has a Facebook page with more information.

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