SNOWBALL EXPRESS: Fallen Vets’ Kids Get Trip

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It's the baggage department at the airport…

but it’s still Christmas.

“It’s always a big send off and this year it’s going to be bigger…”

Teresa Backstrom still has a lot to do…

“We have Santa Claus coming and the patriotic guard and it’ll be a nice send off for them,” said Backstrom, an American Airlines employee.

Tomorrow morning, the Snowball Express and American Airlines will once again sweep Kayla Jaenke of Iowa Falls from chilly Iowa into a warm embrace in Dallas. 

“We’re excited to see her, this year and she started off a little girl and she’s 15, now, and she’s taller than me!” Backstrom laughed.

Kayla’s made the trip for the last six years, but this will be the first year she doesn’t leave Des Moines alone.

“It’s just been Kayla that’s gone and this year we have another little girl that’s going, so we’re excited to meet her, tomorrow,” said Backstrom.

She’s actually 18-year-old Dezaray Redd, who went on the trip last year, after losing her dad, Steven, to a helicopter crash.  She just started college in Fairfield.

“When you’re off and on your own," Redd said, "people can’t really relate to living military life and losing a parent. But when you’re there, it’s so comforting, because everyone understands and they’re all in the same boat.”

That’s the word from the Snowball Express—four days of fun in Dallas, yes, but it’s the camaraderie that resonates.

“It’s really hard for the kids," Backstrom said, "and I think the holidays make it even harder, and I just think it’s a great thing that they have some place to go where they can meet other people that understand it.”

So there’ll be a send-off for two girls here…a weekend for 1,700 in Dallas…and for a nation full of children still reeling from war, another chance to heal.