In a year of celebrating Memories at Disney Parks, some just have a way of stopping your heart. Disney’s PhotoPass photographers recently captured this photo at the daily Flag Retreat ceremony at Magic Kingdom Park, of wounded veteran and two-time Purple Heart recipient, Army Sgt. Cesar Sanchez from Miami, Fla. Although still recovering from his injuries overseas, Sgt. Sanchez insisted on leaving his electric wheelchair to walk the flag down Main Street, U.S.A., saying “If it’s for the colors, I’ll walk.” Cast members who assisted with the ceremony that day were stunned by his courage and resolve to honor the Stars and Stripes.
Talking with Sgt. Sanchez was one of the most moving conversations I’ve ever experienced.
Sgt. Sanchez shared that he was injured while deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, serving in an elite Army company responsible for finding and clearing improvised explosive devices. He was injured during one such mission, but calmly reminded me that it was his job to do so. Stunned silence was really all I could offer in return and a meager, “thank you” squeaked out between a few tears, hiccups and deep breaths.
I have communicated several times with Sgt. Sanchez, who asked that I work with his wife Farrah to share his story with Disney Parks Blog readers. She explained he almost died in the explosion and is still undergoing physical therapy for his injuries. Sgt. Sanchez received both Purple Hearts on that mission because he insisted on doing the sweep first, before leading the rest of his team into the danger zone. It was this selfless act that resulted in the explosion of only the vehicle that Sgt. Sanchez was traveling in, saving countless members of his team.
Farrah wanted to add: “Please tell everyone how proud my husband and I were to join the Army and serve our country. We love our jobs! I also want everyone to know how proud (daughter) Emily and I are of Cesar and how very much we love him still.” Again, I was rendered speechless.
So remember the next time you see a photo that moves you like this one did for us, that there is always a story to be told! We salute Sgt. Sanchez , his wife Farrah and all of the other members of the United States Armed Services, for answering the call of duty, and for their dedication and sacrifice to our country.