'It’s a Really Special Time for Us': Trees for Our Heroes Brings Military Service Members to Family Day at Gaver Farm

Photo by Christina Garcia

Founded nearly a decade ago, Trees for Our Heroes once again brought military families from across the National Capital Region together to experience one of the timeless traditions of the holiday season at a local tree farm Saturday.

USO-Metro and partner BAE Systems, Inc. hosted the day of family fun, helping families select a Christmas tree, create seasonal arts and crafts, snap pictures with Santa, and enjoy in holiday fellowship.

“This is just so wonderful. Thank you to USO that we can do this,” said Leah Nielsen, Air Force Military Spouse. “I gave birth to our daughter two months ago [and] I’m excited to start a new family tradition of picking out a Christmas tree at a farm!”

While the added costs of the holiday season are one that USO-Metro and partners try to alleviate for military families, the cost of being away from family at the holidays are difficult to put into a dollar amount.

“We moved from Oklahoma and this is our first Christmas away from home — This is our first duty station,” Nielsen said. “It’s going to be harder because we’re not around all the family — but it’s nice because we can start our own traditions as a family.

Dozens of volunteers from both the USO-Metro and nearby BAE Systems, Inc. offices set up the event, ran the crafting station as well as helped families cut down their trees.

“We just encountered a family that had tears in their eyes because they were so appreciative, and they didn’t expect this,” USO-Metro Volunteer Martha Cesaro said. “It’s really rewarding to do something for those that have done so much for us.“

Trees for Our Heroes is one of USO-Metro’s signature holiday programs, which originally started when partner BAE Systems, Inc., overheard a military spouse say they could not afford a Christmas tree that year.

Photos by LaPreze Family

Together, BAE System, Inc. employees donated one hundred trees and continued the tree-picking tradition since.

“Every day at BAE Systems, we talk about protecting those who protect us. They couldn’t do what they do if they didn’t have the support that they had back home,” said Scott Howat, Senior Vice President of Finance at BAE Systems, Inc. “Doing things during the holiday season to get the whole family involved, it’s a really special time for us and to be able to show that support to the families of the people that are working every day.”

BAE Systems, Inc. is also one of the sponsors for Project Elf, a separate holiday program that pairs sponsors to children of military service members for a gift-giving Secret Santa event.

“The USO-Metro is an amazing organization,” said Howat. “It’s a great partnership that we really respect and honor and we’re here to help in any way we can.”

Follow USO-Metro on Facebook at www.facebook.com/USOMetroDC to stay updated on future events by USO-Metro and partners.

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