Gold Star families honored during Snow Ball Express

Students from the Alton High School JROTC program salute Gold Star families as they as they start their four day trip to Disney World as part of the Snow Ball Express Dec. 8, 2018 at the St. Louis-Lambert airport in St. Louis, Missouri.

By Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Hudson, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. — The U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America performed for Gold Star families at the St.Louis-Lambert Airport in Missouri Dec. 8 as they started their journey to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, as part of the Snow Ball Express.

Gold Star families are the family members of fallen military members, and the Snow Ball Express is a four-day trip sponsored by American Airlines and the Gary Sinise Foundation to recognize their courage and strength.

The band Starlifter, part of the Band of Mid-America, performs for Gold Star families during the Snow Ball Express at the St. Louis-Lambert airport, Dec. 8, 2018, in St. Louis, Missouri. The Snow Ball Express is an event organized to give Gold Star families a four-day trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The trip is sponsored by the Gary Sinise Foundation and American Airlines.

Starlifter, one of the two rock bands within BOMA, performed during this event as a thank you to these families.     Members of local JROTC units greeted the families while cheering them on with American flags and noisemakers as they walked through the airport.

“It’s an honor for sure,” said Tech. Sgt. Mike Correa, Band of Mid-America director of operations. “Getting to play for American heroes, we’re really honored to be a part of this event.”

Col. Peter Wegler, Alton High Scool JROTC senior aerospace science instructor, who organized the sendoff and the volunteers for the event, wanted to make sure the trip started in a special way.

“It is a thank you to families who have lost someone in service to our great country,” said Wegler.“The families left behind are honored during this event in recognition of their courage and strength.”

Wegler asked his students and other JROTC cadets from around St. Louis to participate in the event as a thank you to the gold star families.

Gold Star families are cheered on as they enter the St. Louis-Lambert airport Dec. 8, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. Families from all over the country were flown to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, as part of the Snow Ball Express, a four-day trip sponsored by the Gary Sinise Foundation and American Airlines to honor Gold Star families.

“Anytime we’re doing community service it’s an opportunity to live the mission of JROTC,” said Wegler. “Developing citizens of character that are dedicated to servicing their nations and their community.”

For the BOMA, events like this highlight the importance and reach of their mission, said Correa. The band is always traveling and performing at events, but the honor of playing for Gold Star families isn’t lost on the group.

“This is one of the major parts of the band’s mission, to honor, inspire and connect,” said Correa. “That first one, honor, is what we’re doing right now, honoring our fallen heroes. It’s a huge part of not only Starlifter, but the whole Air Force Band.”

Altogether the event was a great way to show support for these families, especially during the holiday season, said Wegler.

“The event was a great opportunity for us to give a little back to those who lost so much” said Wegler. “I thought it went great.”