This week, a group of 900 kids and their families are getting a big Texas welcome from the city of Dallas. It's the fourth annual Snowball Express, a charity operation that brings together children of fallen American service members killed since Sept. 11.
They gather for no other purpose than to have fun during the holiday season.
"Our mission is to ensure that the children of these families… enjoy the holiday season, get to bond with each other and understand that America has not forgotten them," said Micki Sander, board chair of the Snowball Express.
For four days the children and families are taken care of by a battalion of volunteers who band together to make sure the children have the best time possible.
Everything from chartered planes to catered meals and luxury hotels are provided – not to mention pony rides and face painting.
"I think it's amazing to know that everybody here is a volunteer and that their whole day and even whole week is being spent to make a special time for kids who might not always be looking forward to Christmas because it's a holiday that dad or mom isn't going to be there," said Monica Scarborough whose daughter's father was killed in Iraq in 2006.
"The children have experienced this solemn event in the past. This is a way for them to get through the tragic event and to understand that there are people around the country that really care about them and want them to experience the fun," said Sander.
This year, the kids didn't just get to watch a rodeo, some even got to participate.
"This stuff here is amazing, just having all the kids around running and screaming, just having a good time," said Braelyn Mintzlaff, 10, daughter Scarborough and Brian Mintzlaff, who died in Iraq.
The former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, understands the importance of an organization like Snowball Express.
"When they come to something like this they get to see that they're not alone. They're not by themselves," said Pace.
"It has helped enormously," said Barbara Allen, whose husband Louis was killed in Tikrit, Iraq. "People holding signs saying, 'your dad's a hero. We love you, we love your dad.' We're four and a half years out and to know that people still remember their dad and appreciate them and take the time to pause when you pass by and acknowledge for them to know their dad is remembered is just a gift."