|Messenger photo by Stephanie Nesler|
|Dwain Waters of Waters’ Christmas Tree Farm in South Solon inspects a tree before it is boxed and loaded to be sent to U.S. military servicemen and women stationed overseas. The Madison County resident has donated trees and volunteered his time to Operation Evergreen for many years.|
Waters’ Christmas Tree Farm in South Solon answered the call of duty Nov. 13, as they participated in Operation Evergreen by donating five Christmas trees for military troops serving abroad.
Operation Evergreen is a service project developed by The Ohio Christmas Tree Association, which has been delivering trees to overseas troops since 1995.
Dwain Waters, owner of Waters’ Christmas Tree Farm, stated that Operation Evergreen shipped 30 trees its first year; this year they shipped 300.
Waters, who has been in the Christmas tree business since 1986, enjoys participating in Operation Evergreen and knows first-hand how important the holidays are to those serving in the military overseas.
"It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to send battalions their own trees. I was in the service and away from home during the holidays. I know how it feels to receive something from home. These trees ensure that service men and women abroad will have the best holiday possible," he said.
Operation Evergreen coordinator Amy Galehouse said Waters and countless other volunteers aided in the packing process that took place at the Ohio Department of Agriculture in Reynoldsburg.
"Ohio growers donated the trees and many other volunteers donated decorations so that each military unit receiving a tree will have everything they need to celebrate the holidays," she said.
When the project first started, only trees were sent, but with the assistance of school children, churches and civic organizations, the project has grown to include letters, ornaments, decorations, cards and banners.
"Hopefully, the trees can bring a little bit of home to our troops who will be spending the holidays away from their families," Galehouse said.
Those on the receiving end of Operation Evergreen are appreciative. Last year, a serviceman from Camp Liberty Iraq sent a thank-you note that said, "You would not believe the joy that one little tree has brought to so many soldiers here."
Another solder from Camp Victory Kuwait sent a note that said, "This is a hard time of year to be away from our friends and family, and the tree and décor you sent us put a smile on our faces and warmth in our hearts!"
Operation Evergreen is a partner program to a national project called Trees for Troops.
Galehouse said both programs provide trees to troops, the difference being that Operation Evergreen provides trees to service men and women stationed overseas, while Trees for Troops collects and distributes trees for military families and personnel living in the United States.
With the help of FedEx Freight, which provides free shipment of the donated trees for Operation Evergreen and Trees for Troops‚ special holiday evergreens will begin arriving at military bases around the world by Thanksgiving.