As I wrote about in a previous post, Walt Disney World does some great things to honor U.S. veterans, which include exclusive benefits that are not available to other guests. However, when one considers the sacrifices that many of our service members have made, especially disabled ones, I believe that there are additional ways to revere them that would permanently highlight Disney as being the best destination resort for veterans in the entire country. Here are 4 suggestions based on previous experiences (and yes, some of them may be a little “out there” but hey, Disney World is the place for dreams, right?)
1. Grand Marshall for the Festival of Fantasy Parade Each Week
The Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy Parade is a pretty intense event with colorful floats, Disney characters from all different eras (from Peter Pan all the way to the Frozen Princesses), and even pyrotechnics from a large, fire-breathing dragon (my personal favorite!). Disney often has a Grand Marshall, who may be a celebrity or even a random guest family, in a special float or car to lead the parade as the music starts. I believe Disney should give a disabled veteran guest and his/her family the tribute of being the Grand Marshall, and make it exclusive, once a week, to disabled vets only. While the Flag Retreat Ceremony at Town Square gives respect to all service members in one area of the park, this act of distinction would take place throughout the whole parade route, from Main Street U.S.A. to Frontierland, thereby allowing these people to be honored by a large amount of guests visiting that day.
2. Exclusive Wishes Fireworks Dessert Party Package
I had the luxury of experiencing this dessert package at Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant during one of my vacations with my family. While the desserts and drinks were pretty good, the view of the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular was incredible, particularly since this experience was done before the Magic Kingdom’s expansion of the Hub and Plaza Gardens viewing area. This package is available for all guests (as it should be), but why not make it available solely for disabled veterans and their families one day each week…Free. Of. Charge? Yes, I know what I am asking for, and the reason for it is pretty straightforward: these people have literally given their own minds and bodies which may NEVER fully heal for the rest of their lives. A pretty significant price to pay, and this gift to them would be rather small in comparison for Disney, but it would enrich these service members’ vacation quite considerably!
This suggestion is more or less the same concept as I mentioned for the Fireworks Dessert Package, but a little different, in that a special discount could be applied to the package for the whole group, rather than no charge. Yet, it could still be limited only to disabled vets, since they have special identification. The dining package actually accommodates special seating for the Fantasmic! show in Hollywood Hills Amphitheater, but the lunch and dinner are separately provided at 3 different restaurants in the park: Hollywood Brown Derby, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, and Hollywood & Vine. So, there would be no difficulty accommodating in those specific guests and their families along with other non-military guests who have purchased the package. The discount would be a completely unique benefit, and again, it gives disabled veterans an amazing experience with a much lower cost.
4. Provide the Military Discounts on Hotel Rooms and/or Passes to ALL Veterans
Yes, I know that I’m being biased here, since I’m a veteran myself. However, this issue has been a huge complaint within the veteran community over the years, as the current military discount for Disney Resort Hotels is only available to active duty and retired service members, and this policy seems to ignore many of the men and women who did not make the military a career but still performed honorably and sacrificed a great deal, including many of those who have just recently left the military but fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The solution is quite simple: Disney hotels should allow the discount to be accessed by all honorably discharged vets and those who have been medically discharged but do not qualify for disability. All service members can be identified with either a military ID card or a DD Form 214 (a document given to all military personnel when they are discharged) presented at check-in, and if Disney needed to verify their status, a simple check can be done using the Veterans Administration website. Granted, the discount on park passes would be difficult, as military members purchase their discounted tickets at the nearest base/post or at Shades of Green; however, with today’s technology, members could request the discount while purchasing online or on the phone directly with Disney and submit their DD Form 214 through email or scan. Considering that only about 5% of the U.S. population (minus active duty and retired vets) make up this demographic, I don’t think Disney would lose too much revenue in making this happen! In fact, more vets would probably book vacations on property, as prices have continued to go up.
Do I think these are feasible suggestions? Well, they are probably more feasible than my initial thought to have the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds perform over Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon! Or giving all service members free admission to Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach! I totally get it: Disney has to make a profit, and we know there is always a cost for food and entertainment. But in my opinion, if Disney followed through on any of these suggestions, I know it would really warm the hearts of us veterans who are Disney fans. It would also bolster the patriotism that Disney has embodied for so many decades. What do you say, Mouseketeers?