In light of the holiday season, I joined American Airlines on one their 11 dedicated charter flights that flew during 12th annual Snowball Express last weekend.
Snowball Express is a nonprofit organization with the goal of “Serving the Children Fallen Military Heroes.” Snowball Express strives to bring hope and new happy memories to the children of military heroes who have died while on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.
American Airlines is the official airline sponsor of this special cause, and hundreds of American Airlines employees and all flight crews have volunteered their time to make this special program memorable from start to finish.
Over the years, the tradition has grown from 3 chartered planes that were used in the first year to eleven that were utilized this year, shuttling families from 27 cities across the US. Additionally, families living outside of Snowball Express airport stops were flown into Dallas individually, as well.
This year, more than 1,600 children and spouses of fallen U.S. military members got to enjoy an all-expense-paid journey and 4-day trip to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas.
I was on board Snowball Express charter #2, which started in New York (JFK), and made scheduled stops in Norfolk (ORF) and Atlanta (ATL) to pick up more families, before reaching Dallas (DFW) as the final destination.
My day with American Airlines started bright and early at 7:55 am at Gate 12 in JFK’s Terminal 8. There was a beautiful send-off party, including a red-carpet welcome for all of the departing families.
With beautiful and festive patriotic entertainment, I was bombarded with a ton of emotions early in the morning as the military families were welcomed and honored.
It wasn’t long before it was time to board, and we were greeted by the most amazing and cheerful flight crew, who did an amazing job decorating the plane at the crack of dawn to facilitate a festive mood for all of the children and families on board.
During our first flight to Norfolk, I even got to knock off something off my #avgeek bucketlist!
Each gate had their own pre-departure festivities, and there were many surprises [and guests] at every stop, including an honorary water-cannon salute upon departure from Norfolk.
While many look forward to the holiday season with excitement and anticipation of times with family and friends, the holidays can be difficult for those who have lost a loved one — especially the families and children of our fallen military. The best part about the Snowball Express is that it aids in the healing process by allowing other families who are experiencing the same painful losses to come together and create a special bond.
Many thanks to all of the brave men and women who serve. Happy Holidays!