A last-minute change by the federal government prevented dozens of Christmas trees donated by New Yorkers from being sent to troops serving abroad, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said Thursday.
The hiccup stems from a decision by the defense and state departments to limit the size of packages that can be shipped to U.S. military bases overseas. Community groups and farmers in New York partnered to collect the trees and ship them to military personnel, but the trees were returned to sender by the U.S. Postal Service.
Schumer, D-N.Y., learned of the problem after being contacted by farmers who received the returned trees. He said at least 40 Christmas trees were returned instead of being delivered to service members serving in Afghanistan, Germany, Iraq and other overseas posts.
"Refusing to deliver donated Christmas trees to soldiers serving abroad is straight out of the Grinch's playbook and flies in the face of Christmas spirit," Schumer said.
In a letter to Postmaster General Megan Brennan, Schumer asked the U.S. Postal Service to provide expedited shipping free of charge to ensure the trees are delivered to troops overseas. He requested quick action so trees can arrive before Christmas.
One concern relayed by Schumer is that local postmasters accepted the trees for shipment without knowing they would be returned.
He also requested a permanent waiver to military shipping size restrictions for Christmas trees. He said this would help prevent trees from being returned in the future.
"It is tragically un-American that this change was made right before Christmas, with little notice," Schumer said. "That is why I am asking the federal bureaucracies to immediately come together to figure out how to get these trees back on Santa's sleigh and delivered to our troops abroad before Christmas."