By Lisa Hughes

DEVENS (CBS) – They said thank you and spread holiday cheer Friday, when the Trees for Troops volunteers came to Ft. Devens. A hundred plus Christmas trees were given to active duty military and veterans alike as a way to show respect for their service and sacrifice.

“We came out here today to thank the men and women of Ft. Devens for their service to our country,” says Joe Firmani who started Trees for Troops eight years ago with his wife. That first year they gave away 20 trees to soldiers, but my, how it’s grown. “After today is done, we’ll be just under 600,” Firmani says.

And the soldiers who came to pick up trees were beaming. “This is awesome. This is great for everybody,” says Staff Sgt. Steven McCullough.

Nathan Buckley ties his tree to his car at Fort Devens (WBZ-TV)

“It’s actually important because it shows their willingness to support troops,” says Sgt. Jacques Parent.

“We put in an effort to do what we do in the military and it comes back to us so often, so it’s really nice,” adds Lou Angelakis a retired Air Force veteran.

Trees for Troops is a non-profit staffed by volunteers. “You do get a pretty good feeling about this stuff. These guys appreciate it. It’s kind of cool,” says volunteer Don Bass.

“I don’t mind helping them out because they sacrificed so much over the years, and so to do this just makes me feel good to put a smile on their face,” adds Ray Bedard.

Bob Sweeney poses with soldiers at Fort Devens (WBZ-TV)

The volunteers also got a hand from the Bruins Foundation which supports the organization. “We’re just doing our part a little bit by spreading a little Christmas cheer and providing some Christmas trees,” says Bob Sweeney, the executive director of the Bruins Foundation.

And after all the trees were tied down and hauled home, about 100 active duty soldiers and veterans will have Christmas trees to help them celebrate the season.

“I’ve been to a lot of other countries and a lot of those places don’t appreciate the military anywhere near the way our country does,” says Nathan Buckley from the US Army Reserves.

Trees for Troops is part of a larger group called Operation Service that works to honor veterans all year long. This was the first year Trees for Troops came to Ft. Devens. The rest of this season they are based out of the Gardener’s Spot in Leominster.

Lisa Hughes

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