Monday, December 17, 2007

American people help spruce up Marines’ Christmas

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (Dec. 14, 2007) – Lance Cpl. Mark Sheldon decorates his work section’s Christmas tree. It is a live tree and was provided by the National Christmas Tree Association’s Trees for Troops program. Sheldon is a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).

Dec. 15, 2007; Submitted on: 12/15/2007 12:51:16 AM ; Story ID#: 2007121505116

By Cpl. Andrew Kalwitz, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (Dec. 15, 2007) -- Instead of seeing the brightly colored decorations and twinkling lights found on America’s streets during the holiday season, troops often have to settle for a monochromatic view of the desert.

This year, however, troops have received a boost to their Christmas spirit thanks to Earl and Esther Worthington, as well as many other participants who donated live trees to service members around the world in the National Christmas Tree Association’s Trees for Troops program.

“We hope that some military personnel will, in receiving a tree, be able to experience the real meaning of Christmas,” Esther said.

The Worthingtons donate from their tree farm outside of Atlanta as part of a larger effort to provide Trees for Troops. Modeled after an Ohio organization’s program named Operation Evergreen, the National Christmas Tree Association’s program provides 17,000 trees to more than 38 military bases, stateside and overseas.

For a few years now, Esther and her husband, both retired, have tended to 12 acres of trees on their property just to give some away. However, after losing their 19-year-old grandson, Adrian, to a roadside blast in Iraq this past May, they said their efforts have a very special meaning this holiday season.

“This year, of course it has a real personal touch and we are even more sensitive to the sacrifices made by so many,” Esther said. “We will sense the loss intensely, but we are so thankful that we were all able to be together with Adrian last year at Christmas and we treasure that memory.”

Unfortunately, loss and separation are all too familiar to the Worthington’s as well as to service members stationed around the world. For Marines here with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), which is nearing the 12-month mark of its current Iraq deployment, the upcoming season brings with it another holiday that will come and go without the company of loved ones. But instead of just recalling cherished memories, programs like the ones the Worthington’s support help troops create new ones.

Cpl. Jeremy D. Spencer, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with 2nd MLG (Fwd), has received one of the program’s trees for his work section.

He said the tree serves as a reminder that the holiday spirit is wherever anyone wants it to be. Whether it be his hometown of Fordland, Mo., or the sand-swept landscape of Al Anbar Province, Christmas is Christmas.

“If it wasn’t for people in the states, we would have nothing. The holiday season would just be spent like every other month out here,” said Spencer. “It really gives the troops a little taste of home for the holidays.”

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