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NEWS | Dec. 13, 2015

All Aboard the Snowball Express

By Sgt. Christopher Bigelow 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

PITTSBURGH -  The Holidays can be tough. For Gold Star families, the holidays can be even tougher. For the past 10 years, American Airlines has been doing their part to make the holidays a little bit easier for the families of fallen service members. 

American Airlines and other generous sponsors pitched in to fly hundreds of families from across the country to Dallas, Dec. 12, 2015, on the Snowball Express for a very special holiday party.

Nine families from the Pittsburgh area arrived at the Pittsburgh International Airport to start their journey on the Snowball Express. 

All of the participating families have lost a loved one in military action since the terror attacks Sept. 11, 2001.

"The Snowball Express is so special, it means so much to my son Misha, to see that his fathers sacrifice and our loss hasn't been forgotten by our community," said Gold Star Spouse Terri Holman from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

The Snowball Express concept was developed 10 years ago with the goal of bringing new hope and happy memories to the families of military heroes who have lost their lives since 9/11.

"I like it all," said Misha Holman a Gold Star child from Beaver Falls, Pa. When asked his favorite, he replied, "I don't think I could pick a favorite."

All expenses were covered for visiting children and their families as they're taken on trips to the Fort Worth Science and Industry Museum, given a “knight” of jousting fun at Medieval Times, and a private concert by Academy Award-nominated actor Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band. 

According to the Snowball express website, the men and women of the United States military and their families have made and continue to make extraordinary sacrifices to protect our freedom. Each year with the help of the presenting sponsor, American Airlines, and other sponsors and volunteers, Snowball Express is able to bring together children of fallen military heroes from all over the world for five days of making new memories and honoring their parent’s sacrifice.

"I am especially proud to play a small part in this event, seeing smiles put back onto these children's faces," said Timothy Smith, a senior ride captain with the Pittsburgh Patriot Guard who volunteered at the event. "Seeing them make friends and understand that they are not alone in their grief is what this very special event is all about."