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Merrimack Valley

December 9, 2012

Trees for Troops brightens holidays for 150 families

NORTH ANDOVER – Patriotism and the holiday spirit joined forces this weekend at Smolak Farms as 150 military families received free Christmas trees.

“It’s good to know that what we did is appreciated,” said John Farley, 37, of Boston, who served a year in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea with the U.S. Army in 1997. His wife, Sharee Holmes, is currently serving in the National Guard and has completed a tour in Iraq.

“This is great,” he said, while eating lunch in one of the barns with his wife and their children, Shaleel, Tiwan, Tikia and Sarai. “There’s a nice, warm spirit here.”

This was the third year Smolak Farms has hosted Trees for Troops, which was organized by the United Service Organizations (USO) and sponsored by BAE Systems, a Nashua, N.H., defense contractor that employs 4,500 workers in southern New Hampshire and another 700 in northeastern Massachusetts.

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown attended the event, along with his wife, Gail Huff, and their daughter, Ayla Brown, who delighted the kids in the barn with numerous Christmas melodies as well as a composition she wrote, “Pride of America.”

Besides a free Christmas tree, each military family received a CD of her latest album.

Brown was defeated for re-election last month by Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren. The votes against him, however, probably did not come from those who attended the Trees for Troops celebration.

Dozens of people asked to have their pictures taken with the senator and he smilingly and patiently obliged. Asked about his future, Brown, whose term will expire Jan. 3, said he will consider possibilities in the private sector. He did not specify where or how he will be employed.

Will he run for governor in 2014?

“We’ll see what happens. Anything is possible,” he said. For now, he wants to get “reconnected” with his family, he said. Brown also noted that he still has a military obligation as a member of the Massachusetts National Guard, in which he holds the rank of colonel.

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