During the holiday season, we are grateful to spend time with our loved ones and create new memories with those special people in our lives.
By RACHEL BOCK | Herald Reporter
For some, the holidays may be a difficult time especially if those loved ones are no longer with us. For one New England fourth grader and her mom, they paid the ultimate sacrifice when their loved one lost his life defending our country in Iraq.
Army Staff Sergeant David Kuehl died in Taji, Iraq in 2007, leaving behind his wife Amy Kuehl with an eight month old daughter Messa.
For those children and spouses of fallen soldiers on active duty since 9/11 an event called Snowball Express was created. Since 2006, Snowball Express has provided children and spouses of fallen heroes with new happy memories and hope.
Snowball Express is an all-expense paid trip to the Dallas-Fort Worth Texas area for four days of fun filled events for those military children and spouses.
American Airlines donates the flights and staff to transport the families from all over the world to this event. The event is also sponsored by numerous businesses and volunteers to make the event a success.
Over 1700 children and spouses attended the Snowball Express this year.
For Messa and her mom Amy this is their third year attending the Snowball Express. Kuehl also has a friend that she meets up with every year in Texas while attending the event.
“I have a friend that lost her husband three months before me, we actually started going the same year (to snowball),” Kuehl said. “We meet each other there every year.”
Some of the events that that Messa and her mom Amy attended included the Medieval Times Theatre, the Natural History Museum, and a huge game center called Shenaniganz, which is a huge gaming center where each child was given a pre-paid card for them to play games.
Every year there are different activities for the families, but one major activity is held every year that caps off the events. This event is called the Walk of Gratitude, where every child carries either a red, white, or blue balloon that they have written on to honor their loved one. The children and families walk in a parade like setting down the streets of Fort Worth while spectators are their supporting them. Once they reach their destination all the balloons are released, for a remarkable sight.
When the 1700 family members are being transported to their various events by buses, they are always honored with a presidential escort while traveling down the interstates in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Kuehl said that when they are part of the presidential escort people will stop and get out of their cars to watch them go by.
“It is very touching,” Kuehl said.
After a fun filled packed day of events for the families, when they get back to their hotel, big play rooms are opened up for the kids. These play rooms are filled with games, music, arts, crafts, and a movie room is also available.
For Messa Kuehl, her favorite event while at Snowball Express was the Medieval Times Theatre, where one of the knights presented her with a yellow rose during the play.
“I love meeting new friends, seeing everybody, doing all the fun stuff, and just being there,” Messa Kuehl said.
This year Snowball Express celebrated their 10th Anniversary, and was held Dec. 12-16.
“I just love going, it is all fun for the kids,” Amy Kuehl said. “Pretty much smiling faces the whole time, I just think it is great that they put on something like this.”