Free Christmas trees donated to military families

BORDENTOWN, N.J. -- The weather didn't cooperate, but that didn't dampen the fun for military families picking up free Christmas trees at the New Jersey National Guard's joint military and family assistance center in Bordentown.

"I think I picked a good one. I'll have to get a ladder to put the star on top, but I think I got a good one," Sgt. Al Veltri said.

Sgt. Janelle Atwell hauled away a small tree for her 10-year-old son.

"The fact that people actually take the time to consider us and remember us during the holiday season because we are not all home, some of us are overseas. It's so wonderful," Sgt. Atwell said.

For the second year in a row more than a dozen Christmas tree growers from around New Jersey are donating trees for military families, who are often on tight budgets.

"It could go towards a gift for someone else or something for our households," TSgt. Janeen MacGray said.

"They're going to think I'm the best mom in the world and I just have to make three smile this year," SSgt. Rachelle Smith said.

"We really recognize their contribution to society and protecting our freedoms. So it's just a little token we can get them for all they give to us," Tim Dunne of the New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association said.

"When family members are deployed, it's hard. Around the holidays, it's that much harder, and this is a great thing to do," Brig. General Steve Ferrari said.

The tree giveaway is a joint effort by the state, the Christmas Tree Growers and the New Jersey Agriculture Society.

"It really makes us think that there are people out there that are thinking about our families," Sr. MSgt. Bobbie Panger said.

It takes about seven years for a Christmas tree to mature.

Farmers call it a labor of love and say they're honored to share these trees with those in uniform.
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