By ESTHER FRENCH
GAITHERSBURG, Md. (December 12, 2010) Nearly 100 military families came to Smokey Glen Farm in Gaithersburg Sunday to find the perfect Christmas tree—free of charge.
USO of Metropolitan Washington chose 100 families from area bases to receive the trees, donated by employees of BAE Systems, a defense contractor.
"Holidays are especially important for military families," because a family member may be deployed, said Crystal Benton, a spokeswoman for USO-Metro.
Farm owner Jim Sweet said he was happy to host. "My dad was a veteran. We know some of the pain the military families go through," he said.
Families could cut down their own tree or choose from a pre-cut array. Donated hats and gloves kept heads and hands warm in the near-freezing weather. Families also received a tree stand and bags of Christmas decorations and tree ornaments.
"They come expecting to get a tree, and they're surprised with the free trimmings, the hay rides, and the hats and gloves," said Benton.
For Michelle Blagrove of Fort Meade, it was the first time she had ever cut down a Christmas tree. "I was just going to buy a $20 fake tree," she said, brushing pine needles off her bright pink "Army Wife" sweatshirt.
This is the second year that BAE Systems and USO-Metro held the event. Smokey Glen Farm donated an additional 17 trees to the Fort Meade USO Center.