Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat Ceremony

by Guest Blogger
“Uncle” Bob Elsie

While one of my granddaughters and I were checking a recent issue of AllEars® and we saw a blurb about something called “Flag Retreat” that veterans could participate in.

I remembered that years ago you published something that the Wilderness Lodge did with a flag raising but you had to be staying at Wilderness Lodge to do it. My granddaughter said “Pop, you should try to do this one because your a veteran!” So we planned to see about it when we got there.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

On Monday, Aug. 30, my granddaughter and I went into City Hall and asked about “Flag Retreat?” The cast member explained that from the first day “Magic Kingdom” opened to the present they performed a flag lowering ceremony called “Flag Retreat.” She then asked if I was a veteran, to which I replied, “Yes. a Viet Nam veteran.” She then asked if I would like to participate, to which I replied “Yes!’ She told me to wait for a cast member who would explain what would go on. A few minutes later the cast member came, took my name, rank and branch of service and told me to meet with another cast member by the flag pole at about 4:45. That person would explain what would go on.

My 3 granddaughters, son, daughter-in-law and I were soooooo excited. We didn’t know what we were in for but knowing Disney we knew it had to be good. All day long we kept checking our watches to be sure we didn’t miss it.

At 4:40 we arrived at the flag pole and met with the cast member. He also asked for my name, rank and branch of service and introduced me to a member of “The Dapper Dans.”

Dapper Dans

He asked if my granddaughter would like to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, she said NO (she was afraid she would make a mistake). He also introduced me to a PhotoPass photographer who was going to take pictures of the whole thing (you get one 8X10 free).

The “Dapper Dan” explained that the “Dapper Dans” would sing a few songs, “The Main Street Philharmonic” would play some tunes, everyone would recite the Pledge of Allegiance, the flag would be lowered and that one of the security detail would show me what to do.

GAWRSH!! As Goofy would say, I just thought they would lower the flag, WRONG!! The security detail came out and one of them explained and showed me what was going to happen. Here’s how it goes, as best as I can remember:

Cast members form 2 lines facing each other between the station and flag pole.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The Main Street Philharmonic is positioned at the railroad station, both upstairs and down.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The security detail (3 members) and the veteran are at the end of the line closest the flag pole.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The the Dapper Dans and the veterans family are on the City Hall ramp of the flag circle.

The ceremony opens with the band playing America The Beautiful.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The band then march through the lines of cast members followed by the veteran and security team, the band circles the flag pole, the veteran and security stop in front of the flag, facing the castle.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The Dapper Dans lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

A single trumpet player sounds retreat.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The flag is lowered while the band plays the Star Spangled Banner and everyone sings along.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Security folds the flag while the Dapper Dans lead everyone in God Bless America.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The flag is presented to the veteran with the announcer stating the veterans name & home town.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The band then plays a medley of armed forces songs.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The band then walks toward City Hall followed by the veteran, holding the flag, security, the Dapper Dans, the veterans family and the cast members. The procession makes a wheel right, go to the beginning of Main Street, wheel left, and proceeded up Main Street. The band was playing the Semper Fidelis March (I think).

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

They make the first right and the band, Dapper Dans and cast members exit through the back gate (many of them thanked me for my service as they passed. How nice was that! ).

The security detail, veteran & veterans family stay for the final part.

The security leader then announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Magic Kingdom would like to proudly recognize United States Army specialist Bob Elsie as our honorary Veteran of the Day, this the 30th day of August, 2010.

Let’s hear it for him.”

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

He then presented me with a certificate stating that info and a Magic Kingdom “Veteran of the Day” pin .

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

You may not be aware of the the climate of the country for returning veterans during the Viet Nam war era. There were no parades, ceremonies or acknowledgments. Most veterans wouldn’t even say that the served over there, say what they did, or even wear their uniforms when on leave. Many had very bad experiences when they did say they served. It wasn’t a pleasant time for veterans.

Gradually, it became less of a stigma to say you were there. I was very fortunate to have a family that supported me and was proud of my service. I have attended many veteran ceremonies and was proud to be a part of them but, as good as they were, they didn’t compare to what happened to me at Walt Disney World on Aug 30,2010. Thanks to you and your team, I finally got to march in what I considered a “Welcome Home” parade!

But not only was I honored but “MY FAMILY” as well! And the icing on the cake was that it happened at Disney World , right on Main Street, truly the place where Magic Happens and Dreams Come True!

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Later on at least 6 people also came up to me, in the park,and thanked me for my service, one veteran also gave me the greeting veterans give each other, a shake of the hands, hug, and “Welcome Home”. I can’t begin to tell you how much the day meant to me and my family.

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59 Replies to “Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat Ceremony”


  2. Apparently a lot has changed over the years. My ex-father-in-law was chosen to do the flag retreat back in June of 2003. I only remember him standing next to the pole in Main Street. He didn’t get a pin or a certificate, but my kids still talk about that day!

  3. My son and I, both current Coast Guard did the retreat o Jan.3,2014. I was great. Unfortuetly we did not bring our uniforms as planned. The Disney staff was great.

  4. I too was chosen to honor our country in the flag ceremony on 10 January 2014. I am a veteran of the Air Force and Iraq and was exchanging our military vouchers for park passes. A security rep came and asked if someone was doing so and I raised my hand. Name, service and instructions to meet at 4:45pm at the flag pole and we were off.

    The experience was incredible. Although I was at Disney World to run in my first full marathon, being chosen to participate in the Flag Retreat was the high point of my trip. I have always loved seeing the flag retreat ceremony and now have a great experience, one of many, from Disney.

  5. May 15, 2012

    On April 30th, 2012 I was selected at random while in Magic Kingdom at Disney World to retire our Flag at 5PM. What an honor! This is something I was wishing to happen upon going to Disney World in 2006 and also in 2009 and 2010.
    On April 30th, 2012 I was wearing my American Legion shirt with the writing of our Post on it. Upon being chosen at random out of multitudes of people I went back to the Contemporary Hotel and retrieved my American Legion Hat. I was very proud upon representing Milwaukee, Wisconsin wearing Milwaukee Police Post 415 American Legion hat.
    Many were taken during the ceremony. One photo shows Don holding the proclamation presented to him including the Disney pin with inscription “Veteran of the Day.” The Disney photographer also had Jaclyn and I showing the happiness with the Disney theme for this year on our faces “Let the Memories Begin!”
    With all that happened within the 30-40 minutes, the cast members, the band, the quartet with their colorful hats vests and pants, and the Security trio of blue, with their precision movements doing this solemn ceremony will be a remembrance forever!

  6. Wow! What an awesome story! Thank you for sharing your experience. More importantly, Thank you for your service to our country!

    I’ve never seen the flag retreat ceremony, but I plan to the next time I get back to the World. It would be awesome to see my dad picked as the veteran of the day.

  7. Last year, in October of 2010, my husband a retired US Navy Air Traffc Controller, was chosen to be part of the Flag Ceremony. Unfortunately he must rely on an ECV to get around and unable to stand for any length of time. He declined this honor because he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to stand long enough to salute the flag and and participate in the Ceremony. I am so happy that you were able to enjoy this for yourself and your family. How very proud they must have been and be of you. As a Navy wife for over 30 years–I thank you for your service. God Bless You .

  8. WOW!!!! Thank You to all who read “our” story. I say “our” because the memories belong to my family as well. We are humbled by the responses and grateful for all your heartfelt comments. I wish all that who want to participate in the flag retreat ceremony get the opportunity to do so, if not continue to show your support to those that get that unique experience. All of our veterans deserve give of themselves so we can enjoy the freedoms we sometimes take for granted. Thank You DISNEY for all you do for the men and women of our armed forces.
    Just a few comments: To Cara Richards from England, my first sergeant was from England and this was his third war! Always a gentleman and dedicated soldier. To Ash from Brisbane, Australia, I was attached, for a short time, with some “MATES” from your country. The stories I could tell about that experience! To Janet Simonsen, your video gave me chills. Please thank your dad and give him a “Welcome Home” hug from me. To Deb Wills, you have no idea how much your posting of the story means to us. To get so many comments and well wishes is beyond belief. Thank You.
    I wish I could personally thank each and every one who read and /or commented but the best I can do is say “THANK YOU ALL”.

  9. My step-father has wanted to do this for years and FINALLY got to be vet of the day last October when we were there. What a beautiful experience…very moving! Only Disney can turn a flag ceremony into something wonderful and memorable!

  10. Thank you for sharing your story and for serving our country!

    My father also served in Viet Nam. He was serving our country when I was born in July 1969. After reading your story, I contacted WDW to see if I could sign up my father for this special event ahead of time, unfortunately you can’t. However, I will immediately go to City Hall on our first day at the Magic Kingdom this August.

    I believe this special event would be a great honor for not only my father who served our country but also for my brother, who was one of the 343 firemen killed on 9/11. These two amazing men sacrificed so much for our freedom. What an honor it would be for my father to represent our service men and women who still fighting for our freedom and my brothers lasting memory.

    Thank you again for your beautiful post!

  11. I have enjoyed this ceremony many times. It’s a beautiful ceremony that quietly honors the men and women who serve.

    Thank you for your service.

  12. I have been Coming to Walt Disney World more many many years and nothing excites me more that coming to Main street for this Event.
    I am a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and every time I see the Flag retreat It gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes.
    SIR!! I salute you and Thank You for your service!!!!!

  13. This melted my heart. Thank you for your service! Because of YOU we have freedom…which includes being able to enjoy family vacations at wonderful places like Disney World. Thank goodness Disney acknowledges and appreciates our heroes!

  14. Bob –

    Thank you and your family so much for the sacrifices all of you made in service to our country. I am proud of Disney for continuing something that the cynics would call cornball, but which the majority feel heart-felt pride about.
    Nicely written piece – this made my day.

  15. Bob –

    Thank you and your family for the sacrifices involved in service to our country. I feel very proud of Disney for doing something that the cynics would call cornball – but which means so much to most of us out here.
    Nicely written piece – this made my day.

  16. Bob,
    I am so happy that you got the experience you deserved. What a well-written piece. Thank-you for serving our country. Kudos to Disney for this wonderful thing that you do. God Bless the USA.

  17. i am at work and read this it also brought tears to my eyes. I did not have a family member in the war but i did have friends some of who still relive that horrible time. I have never seen this ceremony in the 20 years that i have been going to wdw but will make sure i do the next time. Thank you for your unselfish service to our country and there are so many of us that truly appreciate it and are proud of the many that served then and now. God bless you and your wonderful family.

  18. What a wonderful story. We are so honored and humbled to have heroes like you among us! It sounds like it was truly a magical day for you and your family. Thank you for your dedication. Our freedom stands tall thanks to people like you!

  19. All of us…how can we thank you and our other Veterans enough? My son has served in the Army in Afghanistan, so I can personally attest to a grateful “Welcome Home!!!” to ALL US Veterans. Thank you forever for your service to our country.

  20. Bob, thank you. Thank your for serving our great nation and thank you for sharing your story with us. What an honor! I always make a point to thank servicemen and women whenever I get a chance to. Thank you again!

  21. Wow…just read this and I was in tears! I have never seen this ceremony but am going with my family in September and will be sure to see this. Thank you for your service!!

  22. I too was moved by your experience. What an honor. I would love for my husband, also a Vietnam Vet & a Marine, to experience it when we are there at the end of July to the 1st week of Aug. Our whole family will be with us. How proud we would be! I only hope it works!!!

  23. Bob,
    Thanks for serving our great nation!

    Both my husband and I retired from the US Air Force and had the opportunity to participate in Magic Kingdom’s retreat ceremony also. It is a memory that I will never forget!

    I was so worried that I would start to cry during the Star Spangled Banner (I always do because I think of all who gave the ultimate sacrifice) but I managed not too.

    If anyone reading this is a veteran and gets a chance to participate please do so.

  24. I watched in awe many times as older men, vets from WW II, wearing caps with division insignia or naval ship names, would leave the American Adventure wiping tears from their faces. Unfortunately most of them have by now left this earth. In all my 26 visits I have not witnessed Flag Retreat at the Magic Kingdom. You can bet I’ll be there on my next visit. Those men and women who have served our great nation deserve witness and gratitude from all who are able to enjoy such wonders of freedom as Walt Disney World provides. Many thanks to them.

  25. I only wish military families could participate in this program, on behalf of their fathers that have passed on…

  26. This also brought tears to my eyes! My parents are BOTH Vietnam war vets – very moving. So glad this experience happened for you. You deserve to be honored! Thank you for your service!

  27. How awesome!! Truly a magical and memorable experience for you and your family. Thank you for your service and cherish this memory always:-)

  28. Whenever I get a chance to see retreat it brings tears to my eyes. This story brought tears to my eyes.
    Way to go Bob Elsie. Thanks for keeping us safe at home. Welcome Home!!!!!!

  29. I had tears in my eyes just reading about this! My father is also a Vietnam Veteran. I had read about the Flag Retreat before our trip in Feb 2011 but my dad was adamant that he didn’t want to do it.

    After 10 trips to Disney, we still haven’t actually seen it! We are going to Disney this December and have put this on our #1 Top Priority Do Not Miss List!

    Thank you for sharing! Thank you for serving! and WELCOME HOME!

  30. My father did this many years ago (WWII vet) and although he has since passed on, it still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. It made his day and talked about it long after that trip. It is a wonderful event that they do for the vets and anyone that is lucky enough to see it.

  31. Wow! Your story brought tears to my eyes. My husband is also a Vietnam vet and the things you said really hit home. God Bless You.

  32. Wow, this is a fantastic way to honor our military vets. My husband served 20 years and retired last year. He served in Kuwait, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am definitely checking into this when we are there in October. I know he would love this, and there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the place. 🙂

  33. Bob, I’m not American, but your story reduced me to tears and I thank you for your service in the Viet Nam war.

  34. I try never to miss the Flag Retreat when I am at Disneyland. The ceremony is slightly different, in that as the Disneyland Band plays marches for each of the branches of service, Vets from that branch asked to come forward and take their place in a circle around the flagpole. As they come forward, each is greeted with applause. On average, there are about 10 Vets present. It never fails to bring a tear or two. At the end of the ceremony, many of the guests make a point of thanking the Vets personally. Where ever i am in the park, I always allow time to go back to Main Street for this. I remember my father, a Marine in WW II. And I am grateful for the service of all Vets. Thank you Veterans, one and all.

  35. That is so cool. Your story gave me goosebumps. Thank you for serving our country and I’m glad this day was so special for you. I hope to catch this ceremony next time I’m in the World.

  36. Thanks so much for sharing this with everybody. Not being an American, I didn’t realize quite how important this ceremony was – but now would like to make a point to watch it when I visit the Magic Kingdom again next month. You must have been so proud to have experienced this!


  37. My husband is also Viet Nam Vet. I have read about this before will be looking into it in Aug 2011 when we are there with our five children and 3 grandchildren. Thanks for all you have done for us. God Bless you and God Bless America!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  38. I vividly remember the Vietnam era and how our veterans were treated. To finally be recognized for your service is truly an honor. First off, thanks for serving. Second, thanks for a wonderful story. I love how Disney honors their military men and women.

  39. brought me to tears, I love Disney and I love how they just know how to make everyone feel special, even on other special occasions they make sure and give you a pin IE:happy birthday , or anniversary and everyone in the park wishes you a happy birthday or anniversary!

    But to honor the armed forces in that way is extra special! thank you for your service and welcome home!

  40. Beautiful story with amazing personal detail….I felt like I was right there next to you beaming with pride. Thank you for your personal sacrifice through the years. Sounds like you have a wonderful family as well. You are an American inspiration deserving celebration!

  41. My husband and I are both Combat Veterans, and this ceremony brought a tear to our eye the first time we saw it. (We went to WDW to celebrate the end of deployment). When we go back for my Daughter’s birthday, we might just have to stop by City Hall…..

  42. On our first trip to WDW in 2007, we happened to be in the right place and the right time and saw our first flag retreat. It brought both of us to tears. Now we make sure to see the flag retreat at least once on each trip. I’m proud of Disney for showing respect to our country and honoring the troops who have served in our military.

  43. I had a similarly wonderful experience when my sister and I were on a mission to get our dad, aA WWII veteran, into the flag ceremony back in May of 2009. It was the most wonderful way to honor dad and it filled us with a sense of patriotism we had never felt before.

    After being told by several different people the morning of the event that the veteran had been chosen… or we had to wait until right before the ceremony, we finally found a guest services cast member who told us to hang on. She made a few phone calls and out through the turnstiles came a man in a suit. He looked at the printout we had with photos of dad back during the war.

    He looked at us, smiled and said meet me at the flagpole at 4:45. We both promptly cried with tears of joy! What a magical moment. The video can be viewed here…

  44. Thanks so much for a well written blog!! The flag retreat ceremony is always such a moving experience – thank you for the inside look! And THANK YOU a million times over for your service to our country!!!

  45. Great Story! I’m a veteran and I sure would have participated as Bob did if I would have known about the ceremony. I can identify with everything Bob said and I’m very aware that Disney has a great patriotic spirit.
    Thank you for your service Bob and may God bless you.

  46. This is such a beautiful story. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for a job well done then and now.

  47. Thank you so much for sharing! I’m very glad you were able to have this experience, and I too, want to thank you for your service and sacrifices while serving our country. 🙂

  48. The flag retreat always moves me to tears . congrats , thank you for your service , and welcome home. and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

  49. What a great write-up and a great ceremony! I was having goosebumps the whole time I was reading it. Thank you for your service to our country, and thanks so much for posting this!