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Miguel Gonzalez, the stock room manager at Camp Foster’s Army Air Force Exchange Service store, cuts the end off a fresh Christmas tree Friday.
Miguel Gonzalez, the stock room manager at Camp Foster’s Army Air Force Exchange Service store, cuts the end off a fresh Christmas tree Friday. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — For those who can’t stand fake trees, longing instead for the fresh smell of pine and the occasional prickly pain of stepping on a fallen needle, your ship has just come in.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service began selling real, fresh Christmas trees at the Camp Foster exchange Friday morning. With just more than 400 trees, AAFES spokeswoman Sgt. 1st Class Amanda Glenn’s advice is: “Get there early because they’re probably going to go fast.”

The noble and Douglas fir trees range in size from 2½ feet to 8 feet tall, with prices ranging from $19.99 to $64.99 depending on type and size. Glenn said this year’s trees come from a farm in Aurora, Ore., and they “look really good … they’re beautiful trees that are really full.”

“This is a special buy we do every year to bring a taste of home to Okinawa for Christmas,” Glenn said. “You can’t beat the smell of a Christmas tree and even though you’re in the Pacific and won’t see snow, you can still have a good old American tree.”

AAFES also carries the stands needed and preservative to help keep the tree alive longer, Glenn said. She added that all the trees AAFES is selling have been treated with a fire retardant chemical to make the trees less likely to catch fire.

Fred Minkle was one of the first customers at the exchange Friday morning. He said he was looking for a 7- to 8-foot tree with “as many needles as possible … one that’s fairly fresh so it will last until New Year’s.”

Minkle, who’s been on Okinawa for 15 years, said he appreciates AAFES bringing live trees to the island because having a real tree is part of his family’s tradition. He added that he also appreciated the prices as his father, who lives in Florida, said the bigger trees there cost from $100 to $150.

Airman 1st Class Jason Way said hearing that real trees would be available is making things easier this first holiday season on Okinawa for him and his wife, Shannon.

“It makes it feel like home,” said Jason, who grew up in New York. “I thought the chances were slim to get a real one … the wife is happy now.”

As Jason strapped their tree to the roof of their car, Shannon said: “It makes me very happy that they have live trees. If they didn’t, I would have had to resort to a fake one and that would have been devastating. This helps bring a little normalcy to the holidays.”

O Christmas tree

Prices of Christmas trees sold at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service’s Camp Foster exchange:

2½- to 4-foot noble fir: $19.99

4- to 5-foot noble fir: $24.99

5- to 6-foot Douglas fir: $24.99

6- to 7-foot Douglas fir: $29.99

5- to 6-foot noble fir: $39.99

7- to 8-foot Douglas fir: $39.99

6- to 7-foot noble fir: $49.99

7- to 8-foot noble fir: $64.99

— Fred Zimmerman

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