Trees for the Troops
The war in Iraq and Afghanistan has not ended and the American Military still has forces in both countries as well as others in the Middle East. It has been 14 years since the mystery woman came into Dees' back in 2004 and asked Tom Sr. if he could get a Christmas tree sent to her son, who had just been sent over to a very dangerous part of the world. It has been 14 years since our great customer Jim Adelis, whose own son was soon to be sent to the war zone, was told of the mystery lady. Luckily for us, he and his company Adelis International Security, based out of JFK, knew Cathy O'Reilly and the team at DHL Logistics and Freight Company.
After that conversation, Jim contacted Cathy O'Reilly of DHL and the ball started rolling. He called us back the next day and asked Tom Sr. how many trees he could send over. The number was 75 balsam fir Christmas Trees from our farm in Maine. I can still remember the first night I met Cathy O'Reilly and Maureen Cori. I laughed at the cardboard boxes they brought to put the trees in. They were a 5 foot high 8 inch square box. I though there was no way we were going to get these trees into them. Sure enough, they fit and off they went to the war zone. A week or so later, we got another call from Jim. He said the trees were a huge hit with the men and women serving, and asked if we had anymore that we could send. So we gave another 75. The rest is history. 14 years have passed and over 6000 plus Christmas trees and countless items have been donated from far too many people to mention--and you have an amazing story of a community coming together doing something positive for the men and women who serve the people of the United States.
It isn't just us at The Dees' Nursery and DHL or Adelis International Security that do this every year. To try and mention all who have participated in this great event year in and year out would take days, but a few who have stood out over the years need to be mentioned:
- Mr. Dan Carbonara of the Port Authority Police Department.
- The NYPD and Nassau County Police Dept.
- Ben Thompson of the New York State Veterans Association.
- All United States Veterans
- The Oceanside Fire Dept.
- Local Girl Scout and Boy Scout Troops.
- Many local schools who wrote cards including the Oceanside, Herrick's, and East Rockaway School Districts.
- Many local businesses have participated every year.
- Our loyal customers who came each year to help celebrate the Trees for Troops send-off.
The four most important people in this 14 year endeavor:
- The Mystery Woman. We cannot forget the woman who initially asked if we could send a tree to her son. To this day, we still don't know who she is.
- My father, Tom Sr., who thought to himself we should try to send some of our Christmas Trees to the Soldiers, and started the conversation with Jim.
- If there ever was a person who is considered a connector, then Jim Adelis certainly fits the bill. He was the person who listened to my Dad that one day and made the phone call to his connections at DHL. He is also the person who started the organization "Citizens for Soldiers in Service." Without him, I would not be writing this email today and sending you the pictures of the soldiers receiving the trees. He is a true friend.
- And last, but certainly not least, Cathy O'Reilly. She is the unsung hero who doesn't get enough credit. Cathy and her staff at DHL, really do all the hard work. Cathy works tirelessly to make sure all these trees and packages are sent to the proper units within the US Military. The work it takes her and the staff to get these things sent into a war zone still amazes me. I am proud to know her, and consider her my friend. If anybody deserves accolades, she is the one. I also know that without the generosity and hard work of her company, DHL, then this wouldn't happen.
Over the years the media attention for this event has been tremendous. It is something that my family and I had felt very uncomfortable about, because we never want people to feel that we are doing this for the glory. I made mention of this to General Colt of the US Army the 3rd year our group was sending the trees over, and he told me to never feel uncomfortable about getting attention for such a great cause. He said he wanted Trees for Troops to be seen all over the country, so not only will the Military know we are supporting them but also their families. General Colt felt that if people across the country saw what we were doing, it would make others join in and participate. He said it was great for morale and a call to action for all US Citizens to do something to support the men and women who serve our great Nation. After that conversation I felt different about the cameras at our store.
For all of you reading this email that have participated in any way over the years, please enjoy the pictures of your hard work. Without you this may never have happened. I also want to thank our first responders who help us every year at this event. Members of the NYPD, Port Authority Police, FDNY, Nassau County Police Dept and Local Police Forces and Oceanside Fire Dept help every year in this great cause and we know you are the first line of defense for our country. As you look through the pictures, you will see all of us smiling and having a great time--which we certainly did. We must not forget that there are many men and women who are in harm's way every day as they serve our country. Let's keep this in perspective--and keep them in our thoughts as we enjoy our holiday season at home with our families.