An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Article Display
NEWS | Dec. 19, 2017

Snowball Express thanks families, creates memories

By Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

U.S. service members and the Virginia Patriot Guard escorted Gold Star families through Norfolk International Airport as part of the Snowball Express trip to Dallas, on Dec. 9.

The Patriot Guard and service members from Joint Base Langley Eustis and surrounding military installations volunteer annually to escort children of fallen service members to their all-expenses paid Snowball Express trips.

For 11 years, the Snowball Express has partnered with American Airlines and other organizations to bring families of fallen service members together. This collaboration helpsthe children in those families create new, happy memories while building bonds with others who have lost a parent who died while on serving their country.

“This time of year can be especially hard for children in Gold Star families because their service member parent is missing from the table,” said Rochelle Crockett, Survivor Outreach Services support coordinator. “Snowball Express brings those families together so that they can make new memories on top of the ones they keep close to their heart.”

According to U.S. Army Col. Ralph Clayton III, 733rd Mission Support Group commander, service members escorted Gold Star families through the airport to show their support and remind them that they are always a part of the military family.

“This was an opportunity for us to give back to these families who have given so much,” said Clayton. “We need to be present whenever an event like this happens because we don’t want them to ever forget that they are a part of our family.”

The Young family has participated in the Snowball Express for four years and uses that time to remember their father, Jermayne Young, who died while serving in Afghanistan seven years ago. According to his widow, Eleanora Young, the Snowball Express reminds her children of the important work their father did and how important it was.

“It’s so touching to see so many people care, and it’s nice to know the twelve years my husband served weren’t for nothing,” said Young. “When we go to Dallas, there are so many other widows and children who have lost a service member. It’s unfortunate, but at the same time it’s beautiful because there are so many people you can relate to and we all just come together to remember our loved ones.”

Throughout the four-day trip, families experience a balloon release at the Fort Worth Stockyards Station, Texas, a performance by Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band, and many other surprise events before returning to the local area. Upon their return to Norfolk International Airport, service members will again line the airport corridors to welcome these members of the Armed Forces family home.