Every year at Christmas time, my parents would take my brother, sister and me to pick out the perfect Christmas tree. At the time, my uncle worked at a Christmas tree farm, so this became a family tradition.
There’s nothing quite like the smell of pine on a crisp, early December day. Hot chocolate in hand, this became more than just an experience. It’s a memory my siblings and I will hold on to for years to come.
It’s those sweet memories we cherish, now that we are all grown and have moved away from home. I currently live in Columbus and work at Ohio Farm Bureau. However, my brother, Connor, and sister, Lydia, chose a very different line of work: they are both United States Marines.
In September 2013, we said “See you later” to my brother as he left for a nine-month deployment. He spent Christmas in rural Afghanistan. While he was still with his “brothers” (other Marines he had become very close with), nothing compares to being home during the holidays. As a family we sent packages of snacks, small gifts and Christmas decorations overseas. This was a great way to know Connor would receive holiday cheer over in a war zone to keep his spirits up while bringing him a little piece of home.
“When we were deployed and it wasn’t Christmas time, it was easy to get caught up in your job. When the holidays came around, we would see pictures of family and snow, or whatever we related to the that time of year and it made you miss home a lot more,” said Connor.
Not long after starting my job with Ohio Farm Bureau, I was introduced to the program Operation Evergreen, a program the Ohio Christmas Tree Association developed over 20 years ago. Real, fresh cut trees are sent to military personnel serving overseas. This year, there will be over 100 Christmas trees sent to Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.
“When you’re deployed in a combat zone, it’s uplifting getting packages and Christmas decorations from home,” said Connor. “It reminds you of family and gives you that drive to keep going until you can get home to see loved ones.”
Trees are shipped in mid-November, arriving on bases near Thanksgiving. It costs around $150 or more to ship each tree. Ohio Christmas Tree Association members and community members donate to help fund the cause. Details on how to donate can be found online.