Dubuque mother and daughter fly on Snowball Express - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque mother and daughter fly on Snowball Express

DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- A Dubuque mother and daughter are getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Dallas.

This is through an organization called The Snowball Express, which unites children of fallen servicemen and women from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

Penny Splinter lost her husband seven years ago.

"When he got the call to go to Iraq, he said, 'This is my destiny,'" she said.

On Dec. 24, 2003, she got the news about her high school sweetheart - a roadside bomb had killed him in Baghdad.

"Having Christmas the next day was very hard," she said, "but, you know, we made it as a family. We got through it."

"Some of my friends, actually a lot of my friends have both parents, and they're just kind of like, you know, talking about both of them, and I'm just like, 'Oh, okay, well, I only have one,'" 17-year-old daughter Rachel Splinter said. "But when I go on this trip, everyone's, like, the same thing. They only have one."

This will be Rachel and Penny Splinters' fourth trip with the Snowball Express.

"It's a great opportunity for everyone to bond. You just have that great unspoken bonding time," Penny Splinter said.

"I think it's just helped me," Rachel Splinter said. "Just the fact that I've met other people that have also been in the same situation."

The Splinters' son Mitchell attended the Snowball Express trip for two years, before he went off to college at UNI. His sister, who is a senior at Dubuque's Hempstead Senior High School, will join him there next year.

"Mitchell has definitely helped me a lot, because it's kind of different not having a dad in your life," Rachel Splinter said.

"Well, we all know he's in a better place, of course, and he died loving what he did," Penny Splinter said. "The times I missed him the most are when the kids are doing milestones that he can't be here to see."

The Splinters said the Snowball Express is just another reminder of the national and local support they've received, including a recent letter from Iowa Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant Giunta.

"You just feel the support from everybody, it's awesome," Penny Splinter said.

Penny and Rachel Splinter's plan is a 6:30 a.m. flight out of Dubuque Regional Airport Thursday morning.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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