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DFW INT’L AIRPORT (CBSDFW.COM) – They’re the sons and daughters of our fallen heroes. And Thursday they received a very special Christmas gift. The festivities began with the arrival of the Snowball Express.

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The special flights, packed with families, arrived to North Texas cheers.

It was a rock star welcome at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

The VIP guests were some 1,800 children and spouses of fallen military servicemen and women.

Families like the Ayala’s are being treated to a fun-filled weekend. It’s an opportunity for the loved ones of our fallen hero’s to gather and connect with one another.

Blake Ayala, the son of a fallen Marine, said, “I’m looking forward to talking about what happened with my Dad… expressing my feelings that I have for him.”

The weekend is a time that Blake’ mom, Penny, hopes will be good for her kids. “They get to have fun and they get to be around kids that are doing the same thing — no judgment. If they’ve got to cry, they’ve got to cry.”

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This is the 9th year for the Snowball Express. The mission is a simple one – to bring as much joy this holiday season as possible to some of the families who’ve been left grieving.

“It’s about having them realize that their Dad or their Mom was real special, and what they did for this country will never be forgotten,” explained Buck Kern, the executive director of Snowball Express.

Penny Ayala thinks the brotherhood of circumstance is good for all. “I hate to say it’s nice to know somebody else is in the same boat, but it’s nice to know that we’re not the only ones paddling.”

The event lasts until the 15th and we’re told the families will be doing all types of fun activities in both Fort Worth and Dallas.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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