Happy 4th of July! To honor America’s hero’s I offer this classic story from Tales of a Disneyland Cast Member.

Ideals and Hard Facts

He walked up to the desk and gave me his last name. I welcomed him to the Grand Californian and asked for his ID. I couldn’t help but notice the scars on his arms and the sense of sadness in his eyes. He didn’t seem excited to be there. When he handed me his Military ID, I thanked him for his service and asked what branch he served in. “I am a Marine,” he replied. At that moment, two little girls came running up and hugged him from behind. They were talking about all the rides, characters, and princesses. He gently told them to go back and watch cartoons while he finished up. I made small talk about his little girls and he told me, “I am leaving in two days to head back to the Middle East for eleven months.” He explained how he wanted to make this vacation really special for them, since last time he barely made it home. I was caught completely off guard and knew I had to try to  make this the best vacation ever for them. Every day at the Hotel, we would choose a “Celebration Family.” The family chosen received an upgrade and various other things. I knew this was the right family; a family that really needed this. I pulled a few strings and upgraded them to a suite overlooking the park. I also had a few magical amenities sent to the room for the girls. When I delivered the news about the upgrade from a standard room to a park view suite, this Marine teared up. When his wife heard the news she started crying. I had never seen such joy and relief. I had the privilege of showing them to their suite. It was a moment I wished I could freeze in time. Seeing the girls faces light up when they realized the park was outside their window was priceless. After being thanked profusely, I went back to the desk and cried. One small thing made such a difference. This could have been this family’s last vacation, and I had helped to make a lifetime memory.
A month later, I was working in the lobby when I recognized familiar faces. The Marine’s wife had returned with their children. I greeted them, and we talked for a while. I was informed that the girls had begged their mom to come back to the Grand because it reminded them of their dad. In fact, they returned about once a week for eleven months. I became good friends with this family, and I am happy to report that he made it home safely. They have since welcomed their third child!

Disneyland is much more than a theme park. It’s where memories are made. We have the freedom to create these memories because of our servicemen in uniform. Regardless of one’s opinion on the armed forces, I like to think that we can agree on this: We are in their debt and owe them our thanks. I appreciate the men and women that have given their lives to make things like Disneyland possible.

“Tomorrow will be better for as long as America keeps alive the ideals of freedom and a better life.”

-Walt Disney

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