Snowball Express helps Gold Star families heal together

Not many passengers drink hot chocolate and sing Christmas carols together on an airline flight. It’s also unusual for every passenger to have something in common with the person sitting next to them. The Snowball Express, however, is different.

More than 1,600 family members of fallen heroes were in Texas for the 12th annual Snowball Express. American Airlines flew the families in from across the country and they spent five days on an all-expense paid trip.

As the families arrived at DFW last week, American Airlines, the Snowball Express, and volunteers -- military and nonmilitary -- rolled out the red carpet to say “thank you” to the Gold Star families. 

“We started coming here the first year after my husband passed away which was 2013 and it's just become a new family,” Karen Paulsen told FOX 4.

A new family, looking to make new memories. 

“He was a medic in the Army for 10 years. I miss him a lot every day. Still getting used to the fact that he’s not here,” Roxanne Mazur told FOX 46.

Her son, Maximus, was quick to point out that everyone on the trip understood what he was going through.

“It feels healing and it feels really nice to be able to talk to somebody who understands how you feel,” he said. 

Actor Gary Sinise has been a major part of the Snowball Express and plays a concert for the kids every year.

“I’ve watched some of these kids grow up over the last 10 years right in front of my eyes. They wear the T-shirts with their mother or father they lost, T-shirts with pictures, buttons of their loved ones they lost," Sinise said. "It’s very rewarding to see them enjoying themselves, forgetting everything and getting down and partying with the band.”

Watch the video to see the Snowball Express.