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WDAY: The News Leader

Published December 06, 2011, 10:26 PM

Holiday Express gives military families a train ride they won't forget

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - When those railway crossing arms come down here in Fargo-Moorhead it can make for a real bah-humbug moment during the rush and stress of the Holiday season. But there were no Grinches on the railroad today. In fact, it was just the opposite.

When those railway crossing arms come down here in Fargo-Moorhead it can make for a real bah-humbug moment during the rush and stress of the Holiday season. But there were no Grinches on the railroad today. In fact, it was just the opposite.

Not too many people get the chance to tour Fargo and eastern North Dakota from the inside of a passenger train. Tonight the Holiday Express changed that. The train took some of America's bravest families on a special ride - some of whom will be one short this holiday season.

Donelle Walch – Husband is in Kuwait: “It'll just be different; it's the missing piece to the puzzle of the holidays.”

Donelle Walch is recently married, together with her new husband Timothy only months before he left for Kuwait this August. His 13 year-old daughter Amber will now spend her first Christmas without him.

Amber Walch – Father in Kuwait: He doesn't get to see me open my presents and he normally videotapes it, so it'll be hard.

But Amber's sadness is hidden by her pride.

Amber Walch: “I want to be just like him when I grow up.”

This train took nearly 350 people on a ride to Mapleton and back. The 30 mile trip featured food, snacks presents and of course....Santa.

Erik Clemenson – ND Air National Guard: “Seeing non-military personnel step up to help military personnel is amazing, it's a heart-warming feeling to know there are others out there who do think of us.”

This is the fourth year of BNSF's Holiday Express. The company has been the number one employer of military veterans for three of the past five years - almost 6-thousand on staff.

Roger Nober – Executive VP, BNSF Railway: “It's an outdoor sport working on the railroad and to be able to get out there and serve our customer are the very types of skills that veterans have.”

Whether someone is away this holiday season or not - nobody is alone - because in times like these, military families come together as one.

Donelle Walch: “It makes you feel more at ease that you have others around you to be there for you.”

The train started in St. Paul and will now travel to Sioux Falls and finish up in Topeka. In all, an estimated 2,200 people will catch a ride on this year's Holiday Express. The train ride was followed by a donation from BNSF railway.

The rail way donated $10,000 to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survirors and $10,000 to Soldier's Angels. In total BNSF will offer $110,000 to organizations that offer support to military members and their families.

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