Gold Star families received a Texas sized welcome at DFW Airport for the annual Snowball Express.
"Feels like coming through a tunnel during a football game," said Juantrea Bradley.
The Bradley family traveled from Greenville, North Carolina to honor Staff Sgt. Juantrea Bradley, a father of three.
“It was in the army and he passed away in Iraq nine years ago,” said Bradley, who is named for his father.
More than 1600 family members of fallen heroes are in North Texas for the 12th annual Snowball Express. American Airlines flew them in from across the country and they will spend five days here on an all-expense paid trip.
“We started coming here the first year after my husband passed away which was 2013 and it's just become a new family,” said Karen Paulsen from Minnesota. “There’s just a lot of people here that I cannot live without.”
Paulsen traveled with her children, Carrissa and Devon, who lost their father Sgt. Lawrence Paulsen.
“He was a PTSD casualty so he died stateside,” she said. “It was just tough it rocked me to the core because it wasn’t something we were expecting. We expected him to come home and he did and all of a sudden it was just everything snowballed.”
The families all share similar stories and they are bonded by love, loss and sacrifice.
“It’s like the only place we actually fit in because everybody understands what we’re going through,” said Carrissa Paulsen.
“It’s just wonderful because you get to hear what their story was and you can tell them your story and you can connect and come together,” Bradley added.
For the volunteers like Rick Kolster, it’s a way to say ‘thank you.’
“I do this for them,” he said. “Being able to do this, just makes it all worth it all.”
The families will also be honored at The Fort Worth Stockyards Sunday.