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.
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.”
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.
The Main Street Philharmonic is positioned at the railroad station, both upstairs and down.
The security detail (3 members) and the veteran are at the end of the line closest the flag pole.
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.
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.
The Dapper Dans lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.
A single trumpet player sounds retreat.
The flag is lowered while the band plays the Star Spangled Banner and everyone sings along.
Security folds the flag while the Dapper Dans lead everyone in God Bless America.
The flag is presented to the veteran with the announcer stating the veterans name & home town.
The band then plays a medley of armed forces songs.
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).
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.”
He then presented me with a certificate stating that info and a Magic Kingdom “Veteran of the Day” pin .
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!
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.