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Kids of fallen military heroes embark on holiday journey

By Rana Novini, Anchor/Reporter, r.novini@krdo.com
Published On: Dec 12 2013 07:11:34 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 12 2013 07:14:26 PM CST

More than 1,800 children and spouses of fallen U.S. Military embarked on an all-expenses-paid journey to Texas Thursday for the eighth annual Snowball Express.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

More than 1,800 children and spouses of fallen U.S. military service members embarked on an all-expenses-paid journey to Texas Thursday for the eighth annual Snowball Express.

American Airlines partnered with Snowball Express to fly the families for a few days of fun and friendship.  Their journey began with a send-off party at Colorado Springs Airport filled with a gate area that was transformed into a winter wonderland.

"The holidays are coming up, so everyone has their minds on families," said Perry Kas, general manager of American Airlines at the Colorado Springs Airport.  "They have to go through holidays without one of their family members."

One mom, Gloria Baker, said the journey helps her and her three kids connect with people in a similar situation.  

"It's a group you never want to be part of, but you're really thankful there are other people there who can relate to you and really get it," Baker said. Her husband died by suicide after returning from Afghanistan and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"There were people that he couldn't save, and he was someone who felt that he should be able to," Baker said.  "He could never forgive himself for not being able to do it."

Daniel McCollum, 11, lost his dad before he was born.  He said he likes to connect with kids through the Snowball Express program because they understand his situation better.

"These people have gone through the same experience as you," McCollum said.  "People at school usually still have their parents."

Snowball Express is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring hope, joy and new memories to the children who have lost a parent on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.

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