Cars line up for miles to receive trees for the Trees for Troops program on Fort Bragg
FAYETTEVILE, N.C. — Cars lined the street on Fort Bragg for more than two miles. Some had been waiting since 7 a.m., and everyone was waiting on one thing.
They were waiting for Christmas trees.
FedEx and the National Christmas Tree Association's Christmas Spirit Foundation worked together for the ninth annual Trees For Troops program on Fort Bragg. More than 800 live Christmas trees were brought to the military installation, where military personnel with ranks of staff sergeant and below could come and receive a free Christmas tree.
For Friday's distribution, gates opened 40 minutes early because of the long line of cars.
"Traffic was backed up so much, we had to," said Lori DeVincentis, the Support Division Chief for Fort Bragg's Morale Welfare and Recreation.
Some service members and their families who came to pick up their trees offered to help distribute them.
"It means an awful lot," DeVincentis said.
Families were relieved to get a tree, even if it meant waiting in line for more than an hour and a half.
"We got here at 7:30," Shaydi Hernandez said. Her husband, Sgt. Roberto Hernandez, was driving.
"We didn't expect people to line up until 8," she said. "It was like Black Friday."
They got their tree after 9:10 a.m.
"It was worth it, though," Roberto Hernandez said.
His wife said that it was the first time in years that they've had the time to get a Christmas tree.
"I found out about it through our unit," Roberto Hernandez said. "They let us out early from PT so we would have time to get one."
While it saved some time for the Hernandez family, for others, the distribution was the only way they could afford a Christmas tree.
"This is a huge help," said Staff Sgt. Johnny Pineda. He gestured to his two children in the back seat, one of whom has special needs. He explained that the family had to visit the doctor's office often for the child.
"This is a huge help financially," he said. "Money is really tight, and it really makes a huge difference."
Christmas tree farmers from across the United States offered trees to the program, resulting in many different pine trees to choose from. Families could choose a small, medium or large tree.
Trees were limited to one per family and were first-come, first-served. Planning for the event began in August. Some volunteers were given stuffed animals to give to the children in the cars for waiting so long in line.
The volunteers helped tie the tree to the roofs of the cars.
"A lot of soldiers haven't been able to get out to get trees," said volunteer Daniel Fusco. "And now lots are charging a lot for their trees when they know the person looking is military. It helps out a lot."