Up ahead a felt snowball flew across the airport walkway. The next one beaned me in the head, and I laughed knowing I had arrived at American Airlines Gate A22 in Phoenix. We were here last year, and knew we needed to enter with vigilance. We used our arms as temporary shields, knowing the snowball fight had commenced and retaliation is imminent.
Look again, and you will notice, amidst the laughter, the waiting area is brimming with holiday decor. Santa, elves, superheroes, PGR, and military are present, and yet the VIPs today are children with one thing in common.
They are the children of our fallen military heroes.
What is Snowball Express? The magnitude of this event is greater than us. We meet children who have witnessed full military honors, and been handed a flag that will not bring their parents home. We meet military spouses who are way ahead of us in understanding this thing called life. And beginning on this day, for five days, American Airlines flies families from all over the world to meet in Texas for a sparkle of Christmas, and the chance to believe in a bit of magic for a moment in time.
Mission Statement: To provide hope and new happy memories to the children of military fallen heroes who have died while on active duty since 9/11– Snowball Express
What happens here is not something I will even try to speak to. Instead, hear what the families have to say.
My Impressions: The staff, volunteers and military presence of the Snowball Express go above and beyond their commitment to make sure the children of our fallen know they are not alone. While they cannot fix it, what they do know is they can find a smile on every child who arrives.
One Gold Star mom said: This (loss) doesn’t ever go away, and people never really know what to say. Another, talks about her youngest daughter who never knew her dad, and still another who just misses having homework help. And yet they eloquently share four opinions:
- They do not want, or have time, for pity. They have things to do.
- They don’t want to be placed on a pedestal. They want normalcy.
- They have endless gratitude for events like Snowball Express, Camp Hometown Heroes and TAPS. It is here where kids can be kids, and share what no one else really understands. Loss.
You know that gift of time I always talk about?