2 million Americans children have had at least one of their parents deployed in the military since 2001. Many of those parents have not returned. Gary Sinise has a program that sends those children to Disney World.
The "Forrest Gump" start has started the Snowball Express program, per USA Today.
Snowball Express is part of the Gary Sinise Foundation. It was created to make Gold Star families feel remembered and to show them they are not alone, according to their website.
On Monday, virtually an entire concourse at Nashville International Airport stopped what they were doing and joined in singing the national anthem as more than 100 children who lost a parent in combat boarded a plane to Disney World. https://t.co/S4pKt1cRSY
— USA TODAY Travel (@usatodaytravel) December 11, 2018
Per USA Today:
Each December, the Snowball Express, now under the auspices of Sinise's charity, flies more than 1,000 Gold Star children from around the country to Disney World on American Air Lines flights.
Facebook user Jen Tringale, who happened to be in the Nashville terminal, filmed the heartfelt moment. She noted that she had been taken aback by the sight of "an international airport (coming) to a complete stop."
She explained, "I walked out into the concourse to this scene @americanairlines was flying a plane full of children who had lost a parent in combat to Disneyworld on an all expenses paid trip and they threw a party for them at the gate❤️."
But what came next is what had her and the rest of the concourse in tears.
Later this week Sinise will be joining the children on their trip. He let them know in an Instagram post.
View this post on Instagram
Over 1000 Gold Star Children travel with surviving parent or guardian, 1,722 in all, via @americanair to Disney World today as part of our @garysinisefoundation Snowball Express program. This charter left Los Angeles this morning and I got to take this photo with them before they left. I’ll join up in a few days. Have fun kids! We love you!
The program covers all of the expenses for the children and their surviving parent or guardian.
There were 12 chartered planes from 26 cities to fly the families to Orlando by American Airlines, a sponsor of the program.
A very heartwarming story and a true token of appreciation to the military families from Gary Sinise.