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Midwest families who’ve suffered the loss of military member gather to embark on Snowball Express

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A special group of 50 military families from around the Midwest is on its way to Dallas for a long, festive weekend as part of the Snowball Express. They all are children or loved ones of fallen soldiers, people who often have difficulty staying upbeat during the holidays.

Nearly 1,800 kids and loved ones of fallen soldiers from across the nation are getting together for the ninth year to learn that they are not alone in the pain of their losses.

For Preston Yager, 10, and his mother and brother, this will be their first trip on the Snowball Express. They've never flown on an airplane. Preston's father was one of nine soldiers killed in April 2007 when a suicide bomber crashed a truck loaded with explosives into a building in Iraq.

The family drove down from Lincoln, Neb., and hope to create some happy memories and make new friends with others who share similar pain.

"For them to have fun, for them to learn about a lot of different things,for them to get those bonds also," said Mary Jo Yager, Preston's mother. "Because it's not always going to be me when they become adults and grow up they will have friends from there that they will stay friends with for a lifetime. That's important."

American Airlines flys children and their parents to Dallas from 10 cities across the nation. Armed Forces Insurance is sponsoring the event from Kansas City this year, donating $175,000. All of this for families of soldiers killed while on active duty since the September 11th terrorist attacks.

While in Dallas, the 50 families from the Midwest will get to see a special red carpet premiere of the movie, Annie, tour the Perot Museum of Nature And Science and enjoy a Western cookout at the Sheriff's Posse Ranch.