Disney Cast Member Awarded Purple Heart at American Pavilion in EPCOT 

John Arant at the Purple Heart Ceremony

During a heartwarming ceremony before park opening at Walt Disney World Wednesday morning, we had the distinct honor to present U.S. Army veteran and current Disney cast member, John Arant, senior manager of casting services, with the distinguished Purple Heart Medal, America’s oldest military award.  

This special moment occurred under the rotunda of the American Adventure Pavilion at EPCOT, where we recognized John for his military valor and the injuries he sustained during active service with the U.S. Army in Mosul, Iraq in 2007.  

John Arant at the Purple Heart Ceremony

The Purple Heart is America’s oldest military award. It was established in 1782 by General George Washington to create an award that recognized heroic acts of his soldiers during the American Revolution.  

Today, this medal is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to those who have been wounded or killed while serving in the line of duty.  

The ceremony was held before an audience of family and fellow Disney cast members, including numerous military veterans.  

Wearing his Army service dress uniform, John received his Purple Heart from fellow cast member, Jenn O’Rourke, a business transformation manager with Disney Institute who continues to serve in uniform as a Major in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. 

John received this recognition surrounded by “Portraits of Courage,” the pavilion’s current exhibit of more than 60 paintings created by President George W. Bush to recognize post-9/11 military veterans.   

During this ceremony, we also had the special opportunity to present a flag flown over EPCOT in John’s honor as well as special notes of gratitude to John’s military service from former President George W. Bush, Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger and Chairman of Disney Experiences, Josh D’Amaro.  

John Arant at the Purple Heart Ceremony

“Receiving the Purple Heart is a tremendous honor, and I am humbled that my service is being recognized in such a meaningful way,” said John. “I could not be prouder to be a cast member because Disney ensured this medal was awarded in a fitting ceremony in front of family, friends, and other cast members. Disney’s commitment to our military, veterans, and their families has been strong for over 100 years and today is another great example of just that.”  

John served nearly seven years of active service in the U.S. Army and later joined The Walt Disney Company in 2019 as part of Heroes Work Here, a company-wide initiative to hire, train and support military veterans.  

John during his deployment to Iraq with the First Cavalry Division in 2007.
John during his deployment to Iraq with the First Cavalry Division in 2007.

We were honored to recognize John for his heroic service and thank his family as well. We also salute all veterans who have selflessly served their country and those who continue to serve.