"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

25 Days: Disney and USO Open Welcome Center in Orlando International

I've written before about the Disney Hires Heroes Program here (which is reportedly 6500 vet employees strong now) and why it touched my heart so much. Well, they've done it again with the opening of a new USO Welcome Center in the Orlando International Airport. Disney donated $100,000 and helped design the space that will be used by military members and their families traveling through the airport. The first people staffing the Welcome Center are Disney Cast Members volunteers. It's not about the money, $100,000 is a drop in the bucket to the Walt Disney Company, but it's about the heart involved.

We've been at war almost as long as my high school senior son has been alive. It's not the most intense conflict we've ever been engaged in, in terms of number of military personnel involved, but that doesn't make it any less difficult on military members and their families. And the nature of the conflict has led to a huge number of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder cases, with suicide rates among today's vets at historic highs. And we, as a society, have largely forgotten this war is even happening. We've forgotten those fighting it. And that's dangerous and sad.

I know from my father's experience returning from Vietnam how difficult it can be to transition to civilian life. I know how difficult PTSD can be for a family. I can only imagine the stress on a family of having a father and husband or wife and mother fighting overseas. Disney isn't curing any of those problems, but they are helping. Simply building this space lets our service members know they haven't been forgotten, and that they are being recognized and thanked by one of the largest and most iconic American corporations.

These heroes aren't getting the ticker tape parades they deserve. But they are getting smiles from VoluntEARS and a dose of Disney Magic. And that makes me happy.

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