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Colonial Beach sailor honors Gold Star families

Posted on Monday, December 23, 2019 at 3:45 pm

As Gold Star families arrived at Norfolk International Airport on December 7 to board the 2019 Snowball Express, they were warmly greeted by more than 280 service members and community volunteers from the Hampton Roads area.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Vernon McDowney, from Colonial Beach, participated in welcoming the families for the annual event.

“It means a lot to me to be able to put a smile on someone’s face and to show that I support them,” said McDowney.

The annual Snowball Express event began in 2006, with a letter written by a fallen soldier to his wife, only to be opened should he perish in battle. While the letter expressed many hopes, one wish was that they visit Disneyland. Inspired by the letter, Snowball Express was created to bring together the children and surviving spouses of fallen U.S. military heroes for a healing retreat.

“Although bittersweet, we are so thankful to have this experience,” said Gold Star Spouse, Rebecca Headings.  “I am very grateful for the experience but even more thankful to be surrounded by people who understand what we are going through.”

As the families arrived for the trip the terminal was decorated from top to bottom in balloons, games, crafts, Disney characters and even a surprise visit from Santa.

“It was important for me to be to support these families, support the kids, and let them know as an elected official I want to do my duty and service to make sure they have all the resources they need to be successful,” said Virginia Beach Councilman Aaron Rouse. “I also want them to realize that as a community we support them.”

For the full article, pick up the latest Westmoreland News 12/25/19