By Staff Sgt. Daphney Black, 14th Public Affairs Detachment
FORT CARSON, Colo. —The holidays stir up many different emotions, but for a unique group of people they can be a time of healing and excitement.
Gold Star Families from Fort Carson and surrounding areas gathered at the Colorado Springs Airport Dec. 7, 2019, to board the Snowball Express to Disney World.
“It’s definitely a mixture of emotions,” said Griselda Galietti, a Gold Star spouse. “It’s wonderful that the Gary Sinise Foundation provided such a great opportunity for the kids, and that we are able to participate with them. It’s also very sad to know that we are part of this due to a great loss in our Family.”
Grief can be never-ending and the holidays make it even harder because Christmas is a time for Family and togetherness.
“(The event) gives us an opportunity to have a great experience and remember (spouses) in a good way, in a good light,” Galietti said. “It allows us to express ourselves without feeling judgment or pity.”
Galietti’s husband, Staff Sgt. Joseph Galietti, passed away in June 2017; their daughter, Giana, was only 2 at the time.
“It was very hard (and) challenging not understanding why dad was not here,” said Galietti, about her now 5-year-old daughter. “She knew there was a dad in her life, but she did not understand why he was not here anymore.”
While nothing can replace loved ones, this opportunity allows the Families to grow a little bit bigger, making it a bit easier to deal with the loss.
“(This event) actually helped me meet people,” said Morgan Fisk, a Golden Star spouse. “Now I have friends from Alaska to Florida, New York to England. I would not have known any of them without (it).”
Fisk’s husband, Cpl. Michael Fisk, was only 22 years old when he passed. Like many Gold Star spouses, Fisk did not know who or where to turn.
Galietti said the event has helped the Families be able to express their feelings.
“Knowing there is someone we can talk to and someone else is feeling how we are feeling,” said Galietti.
While the Families waited to board the flight, they used the time to socialize with one another, while the 4th Infantry Division Band entertained Families with Christmas songs.
The Families also had the chance to see Santa and Mrs. Claus, therapy dogs, a Gyrsaker Falcon, and games were available to keep children busy.
The waiting area was filled with excitement.
Serra Piko, staff assistant to the general manager of American Airlines and lead coordinator for the Fort Carson Snowball Express, expressed sincere gratitude, admiration and respect to have been part of the event.
“I believe it’s healing to be amongst each other. I cannot relate as much as they can relate to each other,” said Piko. “I just want them to have the most amazing time they can, enjoy their trip to Disney, enjoy each other, make friends and have an amazing time.”
As the time to board the flight approached, leaders from Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base, local volunteers and veteran organizations, to include the Colorado Patriot Guard Riders, formed a line at the boarding gate to cheer them on and wish them a safe and happy journey.
“I think all of us get busy in our daily lives, and if it’s not right in front of us, we forget, said Col. Robert Glazener, senior mission chaplain. “But events like this remind us of the sacrifice of the men and women who came before us and the willingness to die and defend our freedom, and give our children the freedom to go on to school and accomplish great things. And this does remind the military that people who came before us are very important and we stand on their shoulders today.”
These Families have paid the ultimate sacrifice, he added. It is a blessing to have these types of organizations for the kids and the spouses, as well.
“I have no doubt that (this event) has a huge impact on every Family to build a relationship and actually give the kids a reason to smile,” said Glazener. “I think it helps them realize they have a Family — an extended Family — who knows and understands what they are feeling, and gives them an outlet to talk about their feelings and have some fun.”