On Tuesday, June 6,, in remembrance of the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, a special Flag Retreat ceremony at Magic Kingdom Park honored five Central Florida military veterans who served in World War II, the Vietnam War and the Korean War.
The recognized veterans – Clarence Butts, Frances Condon, Robert Feeney, Damian Quiles and Frank Ramsey – gathered in the rotunda of the Town Square Theater lobby, where they were surrounded by family members, caretakers, Cast Members and guests showing their appreciation for the veterans’ service and dedication to our country.
To begin the ceremony, a member of the Dapper Dans introduced the honored veterans, and with a “warm Magic Kingdom welcome” the room erupted in applause. As three security hosts presented the veterans with a folded American flag, giving them each a chance to hold it in their arms, the applause and cheers continued to grow louder.
For Susan Finnigan, East Coast president of the SALUTE Diversity Resource Group, hearing the impassioned support from Guests and Cast Members filled her with emotion.
“To see everyone so appreciative, that was the overwhelming moment,” she said. “When you’re a veteran, you love the flag and are passionate about everything that the red, white and blue represents. For them to hold that flag and be recognized is incredible.”
SALUTE supports Cast Members with a strong connection to the armed services by welcoming new military team members and providing resources that support the needs of the veteran and military community. Finnigan, the event’s organizer, and the SALUTE leadership team partnered with the Orlando VA Medical Center at Lake Nona to identify veterans to recognize and coordinate their visit to the park.
“The most rewarding part is the camaraderie we share with everybody who has ever served or is passionate about the military,” Finnigan said. “To be able to support our service members and have a recognition event like this is so worthwhile for us.”
SALUTE also collaborated with teams at Magic Kingdom Park – including Guest Relations, Security and Entertainment – to ensure the veterans and their families had a memorable experience.
After a final group thank-you message from the Main Street Operations team and another round of applause, Guests and Cast Members approached the veterans to shake their hands and thank them for their service. The veterans and their families then moved outside to watch the lowering and folding of the American flag waving over Main Street, U.S.A.
Sharon Wright accompanied her father Robert Feeney, a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient, and said it meant a lot to her father to take part in the Flag Retreat ceremony and share the experience with his daughter and granddaughter.
“My father will be 97 in September, and it’s an honor and a great privilege for him to come out here,” she said. “It was so exciting and really nice that they did this for the veterans.”
Feeney said it was special to visit Magic Kingdom Park for the ceremony and appreciated the opportunity to meet Guests and Cast, and share some stories from his military career.
“I enjoyed every bit of it; I really did,” he said. “It made me feel very good, and I know I’ll have good memories from this.”