Remembering Our Heroes
Nov 06, 2017 11:20AM
Kelly Mixon graduated from Fernandina Beach High School and studied culinary arts at Florida State College at Jacksonville. He worked as a sous chef on Amelia Island Plantation and was on the Jacksonville Jaguars drum line. He loved drumming, and in his spare time, he could be found in the FBHS band room helping drum students. His goal was to attend Johnson & Wales Culinary Institute and ultimately open his own restaurant. Kelly’s dad and granddad were career military officers. He, too, wanted to serve his country and planned to use his discharge bonus to help make his restaurant dream a reality. Sadly, in December 2010, Kelly was killed in action in Kandahar, Afghanistan when his unit was attacked by a suicide bomber. Others in the unit also died, and the remaining troops were grievously injured. Kelly’s parents were determined to find a way to honor their son’s memory and bring joy to soldiers who have to spend the holidays far from home. The first event was held one year after Kelly’s death, and it is now in its sixth year as Trees for America’s Troops, Inc., a tribute to a young man who gave his life for his country and an opportunity to support those who still serve. Kelly’s parents have since moved out-of-state, and Trees for America’s Troops is now in the hands of Kelly’s great-aunt, Judi Mixon Brown, president of their board of directors. “Our mission is to provide our military with Christmas trees and essential items that will help them during their deployment,” says Judi. “We are committed to providing servicemen and women with items that will help them overcome the hardship of faraway duty during the holidays.” On November 9, 10, and 11, Maxwell Hall at Memorial United Methodist Church will be transformed into a Christmas workshop, as volunteers of all ages collect and pack trees and Christmas stockings filled with food, snacks, candy, puzzle books, and personal care items, along with hundreds of hand-signed Christmas and holiday cards for American soldiers. “Last year, the Trees for America’s Troops event included 120 24” lighted and decorated Christmas trees, more than 400 filled Christmas stockings, and over 450 cards for our deployed and hospitalized troops overseas,” says Judi. “These items were shared among approximately 800 soldiers. Fifty stockings were also filled with toys for their bomb-sniffing warrior dogs. We invite people to come, bring donations, sign cards, and help decorate, wrap, and package the trees and gifts.” In addition, Trees for America’s Troops needs monetary donations to help with shipping costs and other expenses. A Low Country Boil and Concert for a Cause were just two of their fundraisers this year. The organization accepts tax deductible donations throughout the year, and has received help from local sponsors like Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart. “We’ve grown quite a bit in the last six years,” says Judi. “But there is always more we can do. We want to let our soldiers, especially those serving in war zones, know that they are not forgotten. We have 15,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq right now. While we’re going about our everyday lives, these soldiers are protecting our country and risking their lives for our freedom.” Event hours are November 9 from noon to 4 p.m., November 10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and November 11 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information on donations and volunteer opportunities, visit www.treesforamericastroops.org, contact [email protected], or call (904) 206-3938. If you are unable to bring items during the event, call (904) 330-4679 for a pick up.