All Aboard . . . SNOWBALL EXPRESS
(December 17, 2007)
|Christmas is for children. Without them, adults such as my husband and I who have suffered the death of an adult child and who have no grandchildren to sink the energies of the holidays into, leave the tree in the attic. |
2003 was our last year to revel in the Christmas season, to place the lighted deer and angels on the hill to greet our son Sgt Patrick Tainsh as he entered our driveway from Fort Polk, Louisiana. Unmarried and with no children, the void created after Pat's death in Iraq, February, 2004 has left my husband and me, and other parents across the nation, readjusting to survive the holidays in various ways such as skipping them or traveling.
|But this season, on November 29, I felt the depths of the Christmas spirit fill my soul again as I put on a holiday sweater, a Christmas cap, my silver snowflake earrings and pendant necklace and headed to the Columbus, Georgia airport for SNOWBALL EXPRESS.|
I had been contacted by my friend Kathy Upchurch, national president of the Gold Star Wives of America, to help with the send off of a number of children and widows of our nation's fallen heroes to the 2nd annual Snowball Express event held in Southern California.
|The mission of SBE, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization, is to “help create new memories and a few days of joy for lives that have been shattered by the loss of their fallen hero. It is America's chance to give a gift of gratitude to the children and spouses of those men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice since September 11, 2001.”|
This year American Airlines, who knew nothing about Snowball Express eight weeks ago, according to SBE Chairman of the Board Roy White, stepped to the plate. Within two weeks American created a schedule for their planes to provide transportation to and from Los Angeles Airport for moms and children across the nation.
Their destination, the happiest place on earth, Disneyland.
|With Kathy's help I connected with the president of my local area chapter of Gold Star Wives, Leta McNair. Leta is Vietnam widow who had three small children and who knew no such support at her time of loss and grief. Within a week Leta acquired free parking at the airport for the mom's vehicles from Thursday, November 29 to their return on Monday, December 3. By one o'clock on November 29th, the small airport terminal in Columbus, Georgia where I and Georgia Patriot Guard Riders have stood together in the past to honor the arrival of fallen heroes back home, we now stood together with smiles and hugs for the fallen's widows and children.|
Patriot Guard members helped carry luggage to the check in counter, handed out goodie bags to the kids provided by the God Bless Fort Benning organization, and presented to moms roses provided by Publix Supermarkets.
The most fun came when Patriot Guard Riders held the children's hands and walked with them to sit them on their Harleys and Hondas. Young boys and girls smiled as their small hands clutched the handle bars and they pretended to drive the motor cycles that had been driven many a mile in honor of fallen heroes like their dads.
This small airport terminal bustled a few happy hours with greetings and appreciation from local Columbus Council member, Wayne Anthony, other Vietnam era Gold Star Wives, and Ladies Auxiliary to Veterans of Forge in Wars, Department of Alabama.
|The National VFW through their state chapters donated $60,000 to the success of SNOWBALL EXPRESS.|
|The Columbus, Georgia airport personnel and security gave all the support possible to make these few hours a wonderful memorable sendoff for these families. When boarding time came, over twenty Patriot Guard Riders with their grand American flags stood in two rows that created a pathway of honor for the moms and children to walk as they headed into the security check where they had to remove their shoes as we all do since 9/11. |
|The reason their husbands and dads sacrificed their lives. Husbands and dads who I know are smiling upon each of their loved ones and us as we do all that is possible to bring a few hours of comfort and joy.|
And sons like mine who smile down knowing his dad and mom are doing as well as they can to not forget Christmas, but to find a way to put holiday joy back in our hearts.
For this year, I'm thankful for SNOWBALL EXPRESS, American Airlines, and all those who made SNOWBALL EXPRESS possible so grieving military survivors can go where no tears are allowed. For providing me a few special hours to help to create a wonderful send off forthese extraordinary children andmothers, heroes, my military families, who placed a needed joy back into my heart this Christmas.
|For more information on SNOWBALL EXPRESS go to http://www.snowballexpress.org/. |
By Deborah Tainsh
Deborah Tainsh, Gold Star Mother of Sgt Patrick Tainsh KIA Baghdad, Iraq, 2/11/04, is the author of Heart of a Hawk - One family's sacrifice and journey toward healing, recipient of the Military Writers Society of America's Spirit of Freedom award. Deborah is also a supporter of America's military and their families. She is a national speaker, writer, and peer mentor for TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors) located in Washington, D.C. She and her husband, USMC Sgt. Major (Ret) David Tainsh live in Harris County, Georgia, near Columbus and their son, Phillip.
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