Story by: Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed

Post: December 16, 2015

Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Mize, a squad leader from the 136th Security Forces Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, and his therapy dog, Sully, welcome families arriving for Snowball Express 2015 at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Dec. 12, 2015. Snowball Express is an organization dedicated to the children of military members who have died while on active duty since Sept. 11. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed/released)
Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Mize, a squad leader from the 136th Security Forces Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, and his therapy dog, Sully, welcome families arriving for Snowball Express 2015 at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Dec. 12, 2015. Snowball Express is an organization dedicated to the children of military members who have died while on active duty since Sept. 11. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed/released)

NAVAL AIR STATION FORT WORTH JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas - Texas Air National Guardsmen from the 136th Airlift Wing here, volunteered their time in support of Snowball Express 2015 at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Dec. 12, 2015.

Snowball Express is an annual gathering for children of fallen military members who died while on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001. This year an estimated 1,700 family members traveled to the Dallas-Fort Worth area for the event.

“I am in charge of 18 volunteers but we have almost 400 helping this year,” said Fernando A. Ospina, the DFW Airport coordinator for Snowball Express. “Most of the volunteers do it out of a love for kids, a love of our military and a love of our nation.”

This is the sixth year that Airmen from the 136AW work alongside military and civilian volunteers to meet and greet children and their escorts as they exit the aircraft and assist with luggage handling.

“We’re one of the few units that still participate in our uniform because they enjoy seeing that,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Camille LaDrew, Texas Air National Guard, military volunteer coordinator for the 136AW. “It reminds them that they are still part of the military family.”

Military volunteers were also joined by family members. One family brought along a group of 10 trained therapy dogs and their handlers.

“We heard stories today about how the kids miss their dogs and are so glad our guys are here,” said Kate A. Mize, a military spouse and dog handler with A New Leash on Life. “They bring a sense of comfort, a sense of home.” 

Snowball Express was founded in 2006 with the primary goal of supporting the families of fallen military members by providing them with new memories and hope.