GRAYSON COUNTY, Va. - One of the last shipments of Christmas trees has gone out from the region's growers. It wasn't one of the largest but it has become an extra special one.
It's the annual "Trees for Troops" shipment sent by the Mount Rogers Christmas Tree Association, part of a nationwide effort by their national organization to send trees to the troops wherever they are.
The arrival of the FedEx truck to pick up a load of Christmas trees is a tradition up on White Top this time of year. It's a reunion of sorts for old friends with one purpose in mind: load the truck with fresh cut Fraser firs to be sent to those in the military. "They're going to Pensacola, Florida air base and we have some more trees locally that are going to the SEAL training base in Virginia Beach. So we're real excited about being able to maybe bring a little Christmas spirit to our men and women in uniform," Growers Association president Jackie Davis says.
Among those helping to load the truck is an active-duty National Guard member whose family has been growing Christmas trees for 30 plus years. "This means a lot to me. It kind of touches home. It was always special before but now that I'm a soldier and my husband is a solider it really means a lot more to take care of our brothers and sisters in the military," Guard member Julie Baldwin-Norris said.
And sons and daughters, as FedEx driver Jeff Stinson well knows. His son is currently serving in the military. "He's doing fine. He's getting ready to go back to Afghanistan in January. It will be his third deployment over there and he's looking forward to it. He's going to be in for Christmas so he'll get to spend the holidays with us," Stinson said.
"This is the least that we can do to just say 'thank you' for the service that they bring and the things that they do to make our country free," Davis concludes.
And if you don't have a load of Christmas trees to give to a veteran, a simple handshake and a 'thank you' will do just as well.