Hundreds of Christmas trees on their way to soldiers overseas

OCEANSIDE, Long Island (WABC) -- The holidays for soldiers from our area serving overseas are about to get a lot brighter.

500 Christmas trees, donated by Dees' Nursery in Oceanside, are now on their way, courtesy of DHL, to soldiers stationed in the Middle East.

"We're happy and very proud to partake in this with everyone," said Matt Bonowitz, senior Operations Manager with DHL.

Along with the trees, soldiers will also be receiving Christmas decorations, menorahs and letters from local children. The trees and other items will arrive to the soldiers by Wednesday.

The collaboration between Dees' Nursery and DHL began in 2004 when a mother came to Dees' Nursery asking how she could ship a Christmas tree to her son who was serving in Iraq.

"No one in my immediate family served, so we wanted to do something to support the military, the men and women who serve," said Joe DiDominica, one of the owners of Dees' Nursery.

The send-off for the trees Monday morning included an elaborate celebration at Dees' Nursery and featured performances by the USO Show Troupe. Police escorted the DHL truck to JFK. As the trees were being loaded into the plane, bagpipe players played on the tarmac.

John Hudson, a Vietnam veteran, said he would have appreciated receiving a Christmas tree while he was stationed overseas.

"This is a great thing," he said.

Steve Owen, also a Vietnam veteran, comes to the celebratory send-off every year. "I think it does help the morale of troops over there," he said. Eyewitness News reporter Kristin Thorne spoke with Staff Sergeant Richard Amato who received one of the trees while he was serving in Iraq in 2006. He said it helped lift the soldiers' spirits. "Everybody was happy. We set them all up. They had all the food and everything else came over, it was a real holiday spirit," he recounted.

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