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Snowball Express provides fun for families of fallen soldiers

Posted December 12, 2013

— After three years of trying, 7-year-old Emma Dozier finally won the giant stuffed polar bear with the red scarf.

“It’s big and fluffy,” Dozier said, giving the fuzzy bear a hug.

But the toy will never be her main squeeze. It will never be daddy.

“He died when I was only 1,” Dozier said. “That’s pretty much all I know about him.”

Emma Dozier Military families climb aboard 'Snowball Express'

Army Staff Sgt. John Dozier died from an improvised explosive device while he was serving in Afghanistan in 2007. His last phone call to his wife, Amy, came right after Christmas, when he apologized for just getting around to sending out presents.

His gift to his daughter was a doll that arrived a few weeks after his death. The cloth doll is imprinted with a photo image of John Dozier.

"I absolutely melted to the ground. I just fell,” recalled Amy Dozier.

This Christmas, Dozier is aboard the Snowball Express, a nonprofit program that flies families of fallen service members somewhere fun. More than 1,800 children and parents traveled Thursday on all-expenses-paid trip to Dallas.

In North Carolina, participants left on a charter flight from the Fayetteville Regional Aiport.

Lisa Biddle’s husband was Master Sgt. Thomas Biddle, who died in an on-the-job accident while stationed in Colorado in 2011. This is the second year she and daughter Haley are taking part in the program.

“It was breathtaking,” Biddle said of their first trip to Texas. “It was very rewarding, and you felt appreciated and loved, for sure.”

This year, they will go to a rodeo, a zoo and a concert.

Serenity Straughter, 12, of Jacksonville, lost her dad, Sgt. Matthew Straughter, to an explosion in Afghanistan. She said the program makes her feel like she’s not alone.

She said she remembers that her dad “was a hero. And he really helped me and my mamma out.”

For every child on the Snowball Express, dad was a hero. For Emma Dozier, daddy is a treasured doll.

“I kind of sleep with him every night,” she said.

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  • lopo Dec 18, 2013

    This what soldiers deal with as the Obama administration just voted to cut military reitres and disabled vets thier pensions.