ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Its an airplane ride unlike any other. For the last 13 years, American Airlines and the Gary Sinise Foundation have taken several families for a week's vacation free of charge on something called the “Snowball Express.”
You'd think a celebrity was walking onto the plane at the St. Louis International Airport with this kind of greeting, but it's more of a “season greetings” and a surprise greeting from the overhead luggage space.
Kids coming from Kansas City surprised the St. Louis travelers with pom-pom snowballs only fitting for the “Snowball Express.”
Vanessa Lockett and her son Jarvis Williams are one of 17 St. Louis families getting a week long vacation in Orlando.
“I think I'm more excited than my son is,” Lockett said. “I'm more excited than you how could you say that.”
But behind the smiles aboard the plane is a lot pain these families have endured.
“Back in 2010, my husband he was in the navy, so they're honoring us,” Lockett said.
These are all gold star families on the “Snowball Express.” They they are the children and surviving spouses of fallen U.S. military soldiers and sailors.
The trip on the “Snowball Express” is supposed to be a retreat for these families.
Danette Weems with American Airlines and a team of volunteers organized this entire send off. They all feel so dedicated to these young passengers and their parents
“This gives the children an opportunity to reunite with other families who have experienced a loss such as them,” Weems said. “I don't have children of my own, so it's events like this that give me an opportunity to bond with the children.”
They even withstood the cold on the tarmac, alongside a few superheroes, to wave the families off on their adventure.