"May this small donation help these kids along their journey of dealing with the loss of their parent."
"Sherri Hollis - Thank you!"
Family and Friends,
I hope I am not being too forward, but I am willing to take that chance as the Snowball Express and I need your help!
I have worked for Armed Forces Insurance (AFI) for nearly 20 years, but my relationship to the military was known by very few co-workers. I was born into an exclusive group where no one truly wants membership. You see, my father SSG Gregory D. Unzicker (CO D, 1st BN, 12th CAV DIV AMBL), paid the ultimate price on 17 July 1970. With his death, and upon my birth, I became a Gold Star child.
For those that aren't familiar, the Snowball Express was organized in 2006 to honor and support the newer generation of Gold Star children (post 9/11) by bringing them together for a few days of fun and community each Christmas season. Gold Star children and their surviving parent or guardian are flown (via American Airlines) into the Dallas/Ft. Worth area from across the United States and its territories for a few days of fun and community – cost free – their flight, hotel, and activities are covered. The kids are able to spend precious time together with peers that "get them" and fully understand what "Gold Star" truly means.
Last December, I was surprised and blessed, with an incredible opportunity by AFI. I was asked to attend the 2015 Snowball Express in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area as a volunteer! I had no idea of what I was getting into, nor how I would react – but I will cherish this time for all of my days!
From the moment the children, and their guardian, began arriving at the Kansas City airport for the flight to Dallas/Ft. Worth, we were greeted by people from all walks of life with signs, activities and gifts, applause, hugs, tears, words of thanks and encouragement - a clear demonstration that OUR fallen heroes will not be forgotten. This scenario played out in many cities across the US as each of the 10 planes (donated by American Airlines) made its way to Dallas/Ft. Worth.
Buses were donated to transport all attendees to and from the airport as well as to any activity with coordinated escort by the Patriot Guard riders. Let me tell you… everywhere the Snowball group (approximately 1,700 persons) went, it was a BIG deal! It is a sight to behold when a very busy interstate is literally shut down by local/area law enforcement for 45+ charter and/or school buses transporting the Gold Star families to a Walk of Gratitude! The shutdown of the highway happens for two reasons only – a Presidential visit… and the Snowball Express! People lined the highways, overpasses and streets saluting, waving and holding American flags and signs of support – in the rain no less.
Something of this nature was unheard of with my generation. Growing up, the topic of Vietnam was almost taboo. When someone found out that your father had been killed in action, you usually saw a pitiful look and found that the subject was changed very quickly. I have always known my Dad died fighting for the freedom of others – He has been and will always be my greatest hero! To witness the outpouring of love for the Gold Star families of today was beyond my wildest dreams!
I will always be grateful to Armed Forces Insurance (AFI) for supporting the Snowball Express. Gold Star families know all too well that Freedom Is Not Free – To experience the Snowball Express in person put a smile on this "little" girl's face and brought much needed peace to her heart!I am reaching out to my family, friends, Gold Star Brothers and Sisters to join me in raising the funds to cover the cost of at least one child to attend Snowball Express 2016. Should you choose to donate, your donation is tax deductible.
God Bless the Snowball Express!