There's no place like home for the holidays. The popular song rings true no matter where you are. But for many of the soldiers of Fort Drum, whether on post or in Afghanistan, being home isn't an option. For nearly a decade now, a group of local tree farmers are doing what they can to help bring a piece of home to them. Brian Dwyer gives us an inside look at the Trees for Troops program.
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- "We had a local soldier that got killed 10 or 11 years ago in our community," Dick Darling of Darling's Tree Farm in Clifton Springs said. "It was pretty touching and I wanted to get involved."
"So this is our ninth year with Trees for Troops. It's called the Christmas Spirit Foundation, which is a division of National Christmas Tree Growers," Darling said. "This is tree farmers throughout New York State. It's not just our farm. We have about 140 farms contribute. American Legion, individuals give us money."
"We will be at the end of the season here, at about 140,000 trees to soldiers around the world. Put that perspective, that's about 280 tractor trailers full of those," Darling continued. "FedEx has been with us since day one. They ship all of our trees free of charge."
"It feels good. We do like to give back," FedEx driver Scott Foss said. "Fort Drum does a lot for the community around here. If they weren't here, a lot of the stuff wouldn't be around here. There wouldn't be half the deliveries we do."
"This is our eighth year coming here to Fort Drum," Darling said. "We come every year with about 600 to 700 trees."
"It does help morale," 10th Mountain Division Command Sergeant Major Rick Merritt said. "It helps people know that they care out there. For the cost of a tree, that's one more gift for a young military family and for a child. So it does go far and we appreciate it very much."
"This year, they've also sent 70 trees to Afghanistan," 10th Mountain Division Deputy Commanding General, Brigadier General Carl Alex added. "Nothing could brighten up a soldiers' Christmas than receiving a tree that already has ornaments and stuff and letters from a local classroom."
"It's that time of year when it's pretty sad to be away from the family, parents, whatever. This is a little something from us to give them a warm feeling like 'Hey, somebody is thinking of us,'" Darling said.
This job was even a little more special for Scott Foss, the FedEx driver. Foss retired from the military. He was stationed at Fort Drum back in the early 90s.