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O’ Christmas Tree: Trees for Troops sparks holiday magic at Ellsworth

Airman 1st Class Holly Haupu, a lodging apprentice assigned to the 28th Force Support Squadron, passes a Christmas tree down a line during Ellsworth’s ninth annual Trees for Troops event outside the Outdoor Recreation Center at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Dec. 2, 2016. This national program started with a simple idea of tree farmers wanting to find a way to give back to our nation’s military service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Denise M. Jenson)

Airman 1st Class Holly Haupu, a lodging apprentice assigned to the 28th Force Support Squadron, passes a Christmas tree down a line during Ellsworth’s ninth annual Trees for Troops event outside the Outdoor Recreation Center at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Dec. 2, 2016. This national program started with a simple idea of tree farmers wanting to find a way to give back to our nation’s military service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Denise M. Jenson)

Airmen stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., received a shipment of 175 real Christmas trees during Ellsworth’s ninth annual Trees for Troops program Dec. 2, 2016. During the busy weeks leading up to Christmas, more than 18,000 real trees will be delivered to approximately 65 military bases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Denise M. Jenson)

Airmen stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., received a shipment of 175 real Christmas trees during Ellsworth’s ninth annual Trees for Troops program Dec. 2, 2016. During the busy weeks leading up to Christmas, more than 18,000 real trees will be delivered to approximately 65 military bases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Denise M. Jenson)

Tashina Thompson, spouse of Senior Airman Jordan Thompson, who is currently serving overseas, watches as her daughter Allyanna picks a Christmas tree during Ellsworth’s ninth annual Trees for Troops event Dec. 2, 2016. This year was Thompson’s first time participating in the program, and says it was a wonderful feeling being able to have a Christmas tree. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Denise M. Jenson)

Tashina Thompson, spouse of Senior Airman Jordan Thompson, who is currently serving overseas, watches as her daughter Allyanna picks a Christmas tree during Ellsworth’s ninth annual Trees for Troops event Dec. 2, 2016. This year was Thompson’s first time participating in the program, and says it was a wonderful feeling being able to have a Christmas tree. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Denise M. Jenson)

Allyanna Thompson, daughter of Tashina and Senior Airman Jordan Thompson, who is currently serving overseas, smiles as she chooses her favorite Christmas tree during Ellsworth’s ninth annual Trees for Troops event Dec. 2, 2016. Trees for Troops is a national program dedicated to providing military families with real Christmas trees each year during the holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Denies M. Jenson)

Allyanna Thompson, daughter of Tashina and Senior Airman Jordan Thompson, who is currently serving overseas, smiles as she chooses her favorite Christmas tree during Ellsworth’s ninth annual Trees for Troops event Dec. 2, 2016. Trees for Troops is a national program dedicated to providing military families with real Christmas trees each year during the holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Denies M. Jenson)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --

Ellsworth families received a special holiday delivery of 175 real Christmas trees from the Trees for Troops program, Dec. 2.

The annual program, which is celebrating its 12th year this holiday, began when Christmas tree growers across America wanted to give back to members of the U.S. armed forces - through organized efforts, the National Christmas Tree Association developed the Christmas Spirit Foundation, which then quickly developed plans for the now national Trees for Troops program.

Here at Ellsworth, Trees for Troops has been giving service members trees for the past nine years and while this may seem like a small thing to some, it means the world to others.

“The holiday season is an important time for our Airmen,” said Staff Sgt. Faith Walker, a unit deployment manager assigned to the 28th Force Support Squadron. “Some of them have been away from their families for a while, and we’re just letting them know that we support them and we want them to have a good holiday, and this program is a phenomenal way of showing that support.”

During the busy weeks leading up to Christmas, more than 18,000 real trees will be delivered to approximately 65 military bases.

“I feel absolutely wonderful that we’re able to provide this service to the Airmen and their families,” said Chelsey Mastalski, the Outdoor Recreation manager assigned to the 28th Force Support Squadron. “Christmas is one of those huge holidays that is so special within our community.”

While many other Airmen and families have received trees from the program in the past, it was a first experience for some.

“This is our first year getting a tree from the program,” said Tashina Thompson, spouse of Senior Airman Jordan Thompson, who is currently serving overseas. “With my husband gone this year money has been tight, so I was worried we might not have a tree this year. It’s awesome they do this every year giving us all a chance to have a tree and a special Christmas, especially for those of us with a spouse gone during the holidays.”

For more information or to check tree availability, call Outdoor Recreation at (605) 385-2700.

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