This year for Veterans Day, Walt Disney World commemorated their thanks to military veterans and families with a special salute.
As the early morning sun rose over Cinderella Castle, Disney cast members recognized our nation’s heroes with a special Veterans Day flag-raising ceremony in Magic Kingdom. Accompanied by a fife and drum, honor guards representing the security team, Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Reedy Creek Fire Department marched in procession to Town Square for the hoisting of the colors.
The commemoration was especially memorable for Walt Disney World Resort Security Manager Mike Viola, who joined Disney five years ago after a 31-year career in the U.S. Navy. He and his wife Leslie, a 20-year Navy veteran and former Walt Disney World Security Investigator cast member, have been coming to the Most Magical Place on Earth since they married in 1992.
Since then, the pair deployed seven times between them in 12 years of service, and Disney was a way for them to pass the time and stay connected with family. During their time apart, Mike and his family would watch Disney movies “together” at their respective locations, and plan a trip to the parks once each deployment was over.
They both loved Disney so much that they came to work for the company after retiring from the Navy. “I work at Disney because of the joy this company has brought to not only my family but tens of thousands of other families who visit every day,” said Mike.
A few days earlier, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds helped mark the start of National Veterans and Military Families month with a flyover at Walt Disney World while they were in the area for an air show. The flight was a tribute to those who have served in uniform as well as those heroes who have fallen.
You can also find tributes to veterans every day at the Disney Parks. At Magic Kingdom, statues of Walt and Roy Disney stand at each end of Main Street, U.S.A., and the brothers each served in uniform during World War I.
Nearby on Seven Seas Lagoon, another homage to veterans ferries guests from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Magic Kingdom. Navy Admiral Joe Fowler and Army General Joe Potter were essential to the creation of the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World. In 1997, Disney honored the two flag-rank veterans by naming the Seven Seas Lagoon ferryboats after them.
Another tradition cast members with military service enjoy is the annual character sketch depicting different Disney characters saying “Thank you for your service” each year. This tradition began at Disneyland Resort about 20 years ago when the sketch created by their Entertainment Art team was presented to cast member veterans after the annual Veterans Day Flag Retreat ceremony, and has since expanded to include Walt Disney World cast members in recent years. This year’s sketch features Chip ‘n’ Dale offering a salute to those who have served our country.
As another small surprise, guests can open the My Disney Experience app today for a special Veterans Day message.