Soldiers wave goodbye to the Snowball Express flight as it departs Nashville.
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -
The holidays can be the hardest time for military families who've lost a child or parent in the line of duty.
That's where the Snowball Express comes in. It's a special plane that gives families a chance to make new memories.
About 1,700 children and spouses of fallen American soldiers departed from Nashville International Airport early Friday morning to Dallas for an all-expenses paid trip.
It's a trip the Slayton family hasn't missed the last three years.
Hunter, 11, and Hayden, 10, lost their stepdad six years ago. Spc. Brent Slayton was killed in the line of duty, and the holidays without him are extra tough.
Now, each year, their aunt Sandy Keehoe brings the boys aboard the Snowball Express.
"They get to meet some of their friends and interact with other people that have lost family members, and it's really good for both of them," she said.
Mandy Potts, whose husband was killed in Afghanistan last year, is among those who left from Nashville.
"The holidays is a rough time, especially Thanksgiving because he died on Nov. 21, but we're making it, and we're getting through it. We're just excited to do this, and I think its absolutely great," said Potts.
This is Potts' and her daughter's first time going aboard the Snowball Express.
The kids got star treatment, as Fort Campbell soldiers delivered presents at the gate and Santa Claus, himself, helped the captain greet the guests of honor.
Nine planes will travel the country to pick up military families for Dallas. While the group is in Texas, they'll visit Six Flags theme park and attend Christmas festivities.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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