NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Sailors greeted Gold Star families arriving to Norfolk International Airport in Virginia Dec. 13, from an all expenses paid trip to Dallas as part of a Snowball Express event.
Gold Star families are the spouses and children of service members who died or were killed while serving in the armed forces.
The Snowball Express is a charity organization formed for the sole mission of supporting children and families of service members who have lost their lives in the line of duty. According to their Web site, www.snowballexpress.org, the Snowball Express began in 2006, to help give hope and new memories to the children of fallen military heroes who died while on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.
"The children greeted us with wide smiles and excitement while getting off the plane," said Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class (SW/AW) Erica Tapia. "The event seemed to make a positive impact on the children and their families."
Sailors from around the Navy and Virginia's 5th District Patriot Guard, a national organization that supports the families of service members who have fallen in action, stood alongside Theodore Roosevelt Sailors to honor the returning families.
"We participate in this event to honor the fallen themselves and their children, which are their legacies," said Becca Landick, assistant state captain of Virginia's 5th District Patriot Guard. "We've attended their parent and spouse's funerals, so it means a lot to them to see us there welcoming them home."
This year the organization flew 1,500 families to Dallas to get exclusive treatment at several venues around the area, including a concert by Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band.
"We kept them busy from the early dark of the morning until late at night," said Landick. "This whole event is a great way to cheer these families up during the holiday season."
The interactions with the families also impacted the Sailors.
"It is great to see what people will do to help out my family when I am deployed," said Tapia. "It also puts me at ease to know that there are people who will take care of my family if something was to happen to me."
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