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Families of Fallen U.S. Military Members board the Snowball Express Sunday

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI)- It was not an ordinary day for nearly 1,800 children and spouses of fallen U.S. military members as they head out on an all-expense-paid journey to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, for the 11th annual Snowball Express.

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 of our fallen military.

Snowball Express is a nonprofit organization with the goal of “Serving the Children of Our Fallen Military Heroes.” Snowball Express is bringing hope and new happy memories to the children of military heroes who have died while on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.

As the official airline of Snowball Express, American Airlines provided the majority of the air travel, and all flight crews and hundreds of employee volunteers donated their time to participate in this special program. Twelve chartered American aircraft will depart from numerous cities — including St. Louis — to pick up Snowball families.

While in Dallas/Fort Worth-area, the families will participate in a series of activities starting with a Texas-sized welcome, including: a Walk of Gratitude honoring their sacrifice, a tour of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, a “knight” of jousting fun at Medieval Times and a private concert by Academy Award-nominated actor Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band.