Del “Abe” Jones

THE PRICE THEY PAY

The only ones who give more
For the high cost of Liberty
Than those we send to fight our Wars
Is the Military Family.

For a few years and sometimes more
They lend us their loved one
They put up with special hardships
Until the Service time is done.

It’s what most of us won’t know
Living that fear of every day
Praying their loved one stays safe
In some strange country, far away.

The Holidays are spent apart
Anniversaries will come and go
Some birth days are while they’re gone
For children, some will never know.

Some lucky Troops will go unharmed
(At least, nothing you can see)
Some will be hurt and injured
And there’s some, will cease to be.

The lone spouses tell their children
They’ve gone away, somewhere above
But though they won’t ever come home
They will always, send down their love.

We owe all of those Families
Much more than we can ever pay
And especially all those children
Who’ll miss their parent every day.

We should do all that we can
For all those who pay that price
And a Disney trip would be great
Just something we could all do, nice.

So jump aboard the Snowball Express
And give some kid a special treat
Let them know we care about them
Though we can’t make their lives complete.

Why the Snowball Express
by Michael Kerr, Founder

I had one of those days last week. You all know what I am talking about. It started off early with my cup of Starbucks spilling all over my desk. My future wife had called and the kids had her fit to be tied. I was behind in my work, papers strewn all about my desk, a $20,000.00 charge on my Visa I knew nothing about and my voicemail light rapidly blinking red from the control center of the desk. I had to be in Carlsbad that morning and then back to Newport and then to Lake Forest for meetings that I felt I was nowhere near prepared for.

The phone rang and I answered it with my usual harried and gruff response of, “yes.”

The voice on the other end was that of a friend who said, “I need you to meet me today in Santa Ana.”

I protested explaining that I was driving all over Hell’s half acre today and it would be impossible for me to adjust my schedule to allow for such a meeting.

His response was clear: “I don’t care what you are doing or how important you think you are, just meet me at this address and don’t be late.” Then there was dial tone.

All morning the call angered me. After all, I was busy, I have a family to feed, a wedding to plan and clients to attend to. I tried repeatedly to reach this person and beg off. No answer. Being someone who hates to leave things up in the air, I hurried through my day in order to make the appointment with my friend.

As I pulled up to the address, I was certain I was lost. It was a simple home, perhaps one or two bedrooms located in a rather run down area of Orange County. There was an older model car much in need of attention parked in the drive way and children’s toys scattered about the nearly dead front lawn leading to the porch. A dog stood guard behind the dirty tattered screen door leading to the entry of the home with its lips up and canines showing. This was certainly not the home of one of my clients or the home of one of my potential clients so what, pray tell, was I doing here and why was it so important. The answer would appear in Technicolor before the meeting came to conclusion.

A young woman came to the door, very plain and simple looking. By her appearance I would guess her to be twenty something. I introduced myself and she acknowledged that she knew who I was and had been expecting me.

I asked about my friend and was told he would not be there, a fact that angered me further since I had been pulling my hair out trying to get to this meeting of unknown purpose. She locked “Fido” in a room and invited me in. The house contained a few small rooms one of which was an office of sorts with old computer equipment and files stacked high upon the floor. The kitchen was a mess with pots and pans everywhere and dishes piled atop the counter from last nights diner and this mornings breakfast. She apologized for the mess and led me to the back porch.

The backyard was simple and was home to a swing set, trampoline, and a small lemon tree located in the corner. There were various children’s’ toys everywhere, a football, basketball, discarded clothing and Fido’s wooden dog house finished off the landscape.

She offered me a cup of coffee and told me that my friend had explained to her that I was the founder of the Snowball Express and she had heard I was a bit discouraged with the progress I was making with the organization of this year’s event. I was surprised because I had no idea of who this little Jane Doe was and how she fit into the Snowball Express. But I would soon find out.

The phone rang and “Jane” excused herself to attend to the caller. As I sipped my coffee I noticed a little girl about six years of age sitting at a small plastic table underneath the tarp of the trampoline carefully preparing for a tea party complete with plastic cups embossed with the image of Barbie on their surface.

This struck me since the little angel was blond and slight and one day would surely look just like the image she so adored. I could hear “Jane” attending to her caller and it seemed as though it would be a while before she returned. I put down my coffee and knelt beneath the trampoline introducing myself to “Jane Jr.”

She said “hello” and returned to her preparation.

I asked her, “Do you mind if I join you for your tea party?”

She looked up at me with piercing blue eyes and a face that carried the weight of the world with it and responded, “I don’t think there is room for you.”

Surprised since there was no one else in the backyard I pushed the matter with “Well sweetheart, there is no one else here. Who are you planning to have for your party”?

Again a cold and emotionless look as she said, “this is for my daddy.”

Obviously I was touched and felt like a complete idiot, but unfortunately I had to press on. “Is your daddy going to be home soon?” I asked her.

This time she didn’t even look at me when she responded. “No!” Nothing else, just “No!”

I couldn’t leave well enough alone. “Will he be coming home from work soon? I asked her.

Again “No” was the reply.

“Well, when will he be here” I asked.

I was not at all prepared for her response “He’s not, he’s dead.”

I sat there in complete shock. How do you respond to a child who just uttered those words?

I wouldn’t have to. She took the lead and with those piercing blue eyes looked up at me and said, “I’m going to see him again when I go to Heaven and he gets back from the war.” She looked back down at the table and silently went on to prepare her imaginary tea party. I could do nothing but turn and walk away.

I returned to the porch and sat down with Jane. I told her of my conversation with Jane Jr. and she was not at all surprised. She explained to me that every day Jane Jr. goes through the same motions: setting tea for her father who will never come home. It seems that he was killed while on patrol in Iraq. Something called an Improvised Explosive Device – an eloquent name for a bomb that kills people. She had heard about the Snowball Express and wanted to know if it was really going to happen. I told her yes, if it was the last thing I ever did.

After gaining Jane’s permission I went to Jane Jr. and asked her if she would like to go to Disneyland. For the first time, she smiled and seemed to be pleased. I told her she and her mom could come to a huge party complete with a winter wonderland, presents and a chance to meet some of her favorite stars. She sat up at attention, looked across the table and said, “Daddy, we get to go to a party and then to Disneyland.”

Jane and I finished up and she escorted me to the door. On the way out I spotted pictures of her husband in uniform standing proud. Then in the corner I saw a picture of a coffin covered in the American flag. I turned to Jane and she was crying. I asked her why she was crying and what I could do to help.

She told me that Jane Jr. had not smiled that way in a very long time and that she had wanted to take her somewhere like Disneyland but lacked the funds. I told her not to worry that there was a group of people in Orange County who would make sure that Jane and Jane Jr. got their day at Disneyland.

I like to think of myself as a strong man and one who has seen it all but I must admit that I cried like a baby as I left that house because after all I m responsible for what happened to them and Jane Jr’s father died so I could go on living the life of plenty here in the United States.

Please help me keep my promise to Jane and Jane Jr. There are over 1,200 Jane’s and Jane Jr’s spread out across the United States. They deal with the loss of a loved one to the war in Iraq each and every day. I want to bring all of them, no matter what part of the country they live in, out to Orange County for the event of a lifetime. I can’t do it alone but with your help there is no reason we can’t pull it off. I think we owe it to them, don’t you?

©Copyright 2006 Snowball Express