A crowd of busy travelers at the Nashville International Airport took a moment to pay their respects to a flight full of children of fallen soldiers by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” as they boarded a plane with their families to a Disney World retreat.
In a video posted to Facebook by Jen Tringale, a crowd of children and their guardians are seen standing outside of an American Airlines gate as a group sang the national anthem as active servicemen and servicewomen were standing, saluting. According to Tringale, all other travelers froze as they came across the powerful scene and began to sing along. Some even burst into tears after learning the purpose of the trip.
“I walked out into the concourse to this scene,” Tringale wrote. “@american Airlines 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.”
The flight out of Nashville was one of many from airports around the country headed toward the Disney destination for the annual Snowball Express hosted by the Gary Sinise Foundation. According to a press release, 1,722 children of fallen soldiers and their surviving parent or guardian attend the five-day trip, which offers various programs and support for families grieving the loss of a military family member. The best part of the experience, though, is that they get to go through it with others who understand their anguish.
“No matter where a Gold Star Family may be in their grieving process, Snowball Express aims to provide a memorable experience where they can access support, create new bonds, make positive memories, and build a community with the only people who can truly understand their loss: each other,” the foundation said in the statement.
Now, hundreds of thousands of people are seeing the impact of that community after viewing the now-viral video. Another Facebook user even posted a similar clip from the Norfolk International Airport where she witnessed a similar crowd being applauded as they made their way through the airport.
According to a statement from American Airlines, nearly 1,000 members volunteered to serve the families embarking on the trip.
“This event is a favorite among the American team,” said David Seymour, senior vice president of integrated operations at American and a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. “As a company, and as a nation, we owe it to [the families] to never forget the sacrifice that continues long after the war is over.”
To acknowledge that sacrifice during the holidays is especially sentimental, according to Tringale.
“To see all of this at Christmas time was so humbling,” she wrote. “Seeing the general public in an airport stand still to honor these kids was simply beautiful.”
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