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Eager Sill families pick out their tree

Two highly motivated Army spouses were first in line for Saturday's Trees for Troops giveaway at the Fort Sill Recycle Center.

Tea White said they got there at 5:30 a.m. because "we wanted a good tree."

Her neighbor, Sylvia Escarcega, came with her 10-year-old daughter, Destinyy, a fifth-grader at Freedom Elementary School. As soon as the overhead door rolled up, they spotted the tree they wanted  a towering 10-foot giant.

"We do this every year. I like doing it," said Sylvia Escarcega, who confessed she was eager to get the tree set up.

"I always get a 10-footer," she said. "The ceiling is exactly 10 feet, so usually when we put it in there we don't get to put the star (on top), but that's fine by me. It's pretty Ö We started doing the live tree tradition maybe three or four years ago. We just like the smell of it. It's just much better. I like doing it, even if I have to be here at 5:30 in the morning. It doesn't bother me. I love Christmas."

Her husband is Staff Sgt. Froilan Escarcega, an instructor, and they have two more children at home, Iris, 8, and Santiago, who will be 7 in January. Sylvia Escarcega depended on volunteers to help her strap the massive tree onto her vehicle, and on her husband to help her get it into the house once she got home.

Sgt. Abel Gerardo, who works in operations for Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 31st Field Artillery, on the basic training side of Fort Sill, and his son Aiden, 9, a third-grader at Freedom Elementary, lost no time in choosing a tree that was already locked into a metal stand, thus saving some work. Volunteers put the tree through a bundler that wrapped a plastic mesh around the tree so it would be easier to transport.

When asked what he liked about this tree, Aiden said, "That it's real and it's awesome."

Aiden said this is his first time to have a live tree. For his father, "it's been a while. It's been a long time. This is the first time in I'd say five years, so pretty excited."

The sergeant said he saw a notice for Trees for Troops, and decided it would be good to have something that's alive and would be part of the festivities with his family. He has four children at home. In addition to Aiden, there are his daughter Jitzel, 16, and two more sons, Abel Jr., 11, and Adrian, 8. They planned on picking out a tree-topper on Saturday.

The doors opened at 7 a.m., 30 minutes earlier than last year, because all the trees were inside a well-lit, heated warehouse and center manager Chris Smith didn't have to wait for sunup for people to be able to see stacks of trees lying behind the building.

300 trees to choose from

This year the Christmas Spirit Foundation sent a little over 300 trees from two Christmas tree farms in Pennsylvania and one in Vermont, Smith said.

"The installations are selected by the foundation ... So we're very lucky to be chosen to receive the trees," she said.

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