Memorial Day 2023: Disney Honors Fallen Military Heroes

Memorial Day 2023: Disney Honors Fallen Military Heroes blog header

While the atmosphere at Disney Parks is filled with magic and happiness, Memorial Day serves as a gentle reminder to pause and reflect on the sacrifices made by fallen U.S. military heroes in service to our country. It’s also a time to remember the families that they left behind.

For as long as we’ve been a company, Disney has honored veterans, the military and their families. In recognition of National Military Appreciation Month and Memorial Day, members of our SALUTE Veteran Employee Resource Group had the opportunity to welcome Gold Star families to Magic Kingdom alongside the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS for short. TAPS is a nonprofit organization providing support services to the loved ones of fallen service members, also known as Gold Star families.

TAPS group in front of Cinderella Castle

“It was a tremendous honor for TAPS to be welcomed to the Magic Kingdom by Disney SALUTE,” said Diana Hosford, Vice President, Sports & Entertainment of TAPS. “Our group of nearly 50 young adults, who all lost a military loved one, had a day in Walt Disney World to connect, bond, and share. Starting the experience with the Disney SALUTE team of military veterans recognizing the fallen was very meaningful.”

TAPS members sit outside Cinderella Castle
Cast member and U.S. Navy veteran Cappy Surette greets Gold Star family members

These special Gold Star families from across the country came together and shared their stories, connected, and found solace in the support of others who have experienced similar loss. We were honored to help make some magic and create lasting new memories for these special guests while reminding them that they are never alone.

“Moments like this of joy and community are an important part of the grief journey,” said Diana.

Group of 4 TAPS members
Disney cast members Jason Ketelsen, a U.S. Navy veteran and Susan Finnigan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran helped welcome special guests to Magic Kingdom Park

We also honor all our fallen heroes this Memorial Day weekend with Missing Hero tables at Disneyland Resort hotels and select backstage locations at Walt Disney World Resort. The table is reserved to honor the brave and selfless American military members who gave their lives in service to the country or went missing in action and have not found their way back home.

Table set at Disney Resort

There are several notable features of these tables and their content. Here are just a few:

  • The table is set for one, symbolizing the frailty of one isolated prisoner. 
  • A slice of lemon on the bread plate reminds us of the bitter fate of those who will never return.
  • A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by those who have sacrificed all.
  • An inverted glass is symbolic of those who cannot toast with us at this time.
  • The empty chair reminds us they are no longer with us.

Diana shared that “for the families of the fallen, every day is Memorial Day as they honor their loved one’s service and their sacrifice for the protection and freedom of our country. Survivors are the living legacy of their heroes, and that is an honor they hold in their hearts and carry with them every day.”

We hope you join us in taking a moment this holiday weekend to remember the military heroes who selflessly gave their lives so that we may live in a world filled with magic, joy, and endless possibilities.