Cathy O’Reilly, regional manager of global aviation and routing at DHL Express, said that the company was proud to be a part of the yearly tradition, and added that DHL had been busy during Hurricane Sandy, helping to run relief missions to Baldwin, Fire Island and Staten Island.
According to Adelis, another 500 trees are being sent to troops this year, putting the total since the program began at more than 5,500. Dale, a veteran himself, thanked the crowd and began a chant of “USA!” so that “the troops overseas can hear.”
Students from a number of schools, including Oceanside, East Rockaway and Hewlett, were invited to read letters they had written to troops. Students from I.S. 392 in Brooklyn read a letter they had written in Spanish to a Hispanic soldier.
Lt. Colonel Tom Sullivan, one of many veterans on hand for the program, described how much it is appreciated, especially in light of the recent devastation caused by Sandy. “Consistency is the right word,” said Sullivan, whose Breezy Point home suffered extensive damage. “We’ve canceled too many family events, meetings with friends, because we have to meet with insurance adjusters and contractors. We’ve put our lives completely on hold. But they still find the energy, heart and resources to make this happen.”
Ben Thompson, of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, presented a check for $6,680 to help cover the cost of shipping the trees to the troops. “I know what it is at Christmastime to not have a tree,” said Thompson, who served in Vietnam. “We didn’t get trees. We got maybe a card from our mom or aunt, a box of cookies that were crumbled when they got there, and when you opened it up, everyone would eat them before you got to them. But now you’re making it happen for our troops.”
Adelis announced that some trees would be donated to the local families of some service members. Some will also be donated to Oceanside and East Rockaway schools, which will give them out to families in need.
Mary Malloy contributed to this story.