By Paul Tennant
---- — 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.
In a brief, separate interview, Huff said one must be a “masochist” to run for office.
Regarding the “fiscal cliff” – the tax increases and spending cuts that are due to take effect Jan. 1 unless President Obama and Congress agree on some modifications – Brown took both the chief executive and congressional leadership to task.
“They don’t seem to be taking things under consideration,” he said. “They should have been working on this a year ago.”
Many of the families who were at Smolak Farms yesterday have more than a single loved one who is serving or has served in the military. Steven and Dawn White, of Pascoag, R.I., were accompanied by their grandchildren, Elijah and Aliyah White, as well as Dawn’s mother, Linda Hamel.
Elijah and Aliyah’s father, Sgt. Steven R.E.G. White, is serving his third deployment in Afghanistan as an Army military police officer. Sgt. White’s brother, Brandon, is a member of the Rhode Island National Guard who has been deployed to Iraq.
The elder Steven White was in the Army for 25 years and served in the Persian Gulf War.
Laura Csoma, of Bedford, is a former member of the Air Force and her husband, Ernest, is currently assigned to an Air Force base in Afghanistan.
“We think it’s so sweet of them to do this,” she said of the donated Christmas trees. Csoma said she, her husband and other military families “are happy to serve” the United States in the armed forces.