Members of the NCOA Mountain Post and Mountain Post Auxiliary Chapters were on hand at the Colorado Springs Airport to welcome the Gold Star Families returning home from 2022 Snowball Express.
Snowball Express is a five-day healing retreat that serves the children of fallen military heroes, surviving spouses, and their families. Throughout the annual event, these families have an opportunity to bond with the only people who can truly understand their loss: one another.
Snowball Express was started after the publication of a letter from a soldier to his wife. U.S. Army Private First Class Jesse Givens had left the letter behind when he deployed to Iraq, instructing her in a note on the envelope to only open it if something happened to him. Following his death in Iraq while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom May 3, 2003, his wife opened the letter. It conveyed how much he loved his family and the things that he wanted them to do. Among his requests was that his wife make sure she took their children to Disney Parks.
After the letter was published, readers believed hundreds of other families were in the same situation and took the families to Disneyland Resort in 2006 as most participants lived in California.
Gary Sinise became involved with Snowball Express 2007 and has volunteered his band The Lt. Dan Band to perform every year since. As the event grew larger, it moved to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas in 2009. The program officially became part of the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2017 and moved to Walt Disney World Resort in 2018.
Gary Sinise shared, “While our hearts are heavy at the circumstances that brought these families together, I am grateful we can honor them, remembering their loved ones who are no longer with us, as we wrap our arms around each and every one of them. As we approach the holiday season, I am so glad that for the first time since our amazing event in 2019, we are once again able to bring these deserving families together to create new and wonderful memories at the most magical place on earth, Walt Disney World Resort.”