‘Freedom Tree’ already making Christmas extra special for military families

Belmont County

Belmont County, OH (WTRF)- It’s not yet the holidays, but a local car dealership is making Christmas miracles come true for veteran families by giving them gift donations.

7 News Reporter Aliah Keller tells us why this year’s annual fundraiser is so special to the Flushing American Legion Riders at Post 366, the group who’s donating the money. 

What you may know of as the “Freedom Tree” is keeping the Christmas magic alive many months before the holidays, but those behind it all have one man on their minds this year. 

“This is Roger Martin’s Day.” 

Robert Thomas, Vice President of Thomas Auto Centers

To them, Roger Martin is no different than the families they help. 

He’s a veteran, a hero in the Vietnam War. But tragically, this year’s the first they have to do it without him. 

“He was a dedicated veteran. Roger was in the Marine Corps up for 35 years, and he still thought he was a marine. Very proud of his service, very proud of his family. He was an all-around good guy.”

Bruce Harris, director of the American Legion Riders at Post 366 Flushing

“Roger was one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, always had a nice bike, always had a really clean bike, and he do anything for you.” 

Robert Thomas, Vice President of Thomas Auto Centers

“Very dedicated and loyal. Very dedicated and loyal.” 

Robin Thomas, head of the Freedom Tree

Roger passed away back in December, and months later, the American Legion Riders at Post 366 is still honoring one of his last wishes.

“He would have wanted this. His exact words were ‘give it to the kids’.” 

Bruce Harris, director of the American Legion Riders at Post 366 Flushing

So they are.

After topping last year’s donations by 500 dollars, the American Legion Riders Post 366 reached $5,500, all to take care of the local veterans and their families come Christmas time. But not just the retired. But the active and non-active military families.  

Something that always hits home for everyone, this year especially. 

“It’s the feeling you get from helping these veterans and under Roger’s name. It’s a feeling you can’t buy. I’m going to cry.” 

Robert Thomas, Vice President of Thomas Auto Centers

From helping three families back in 2012 to 29 last year, it’s only grown, and this year they hope to help even more.

“We want them to feel free to come to us when they need help.” 

Robin Thomas, head of the Freedom Tree

“Always looking for new recipients.” 

Robert Thomas, Vice President of Thomas Auto Centers

“Always looking for new recipients because we are building every year.”

Robin Thomas, head of the Freedom Tree

If you’d like to receive some assistance from the “Freedom Tree” or make a donation for the holidays, just call Thomas Auto Centers at 740-695-0452. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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