The legacy of support for military service members and their families is a huge part of our 100-year history at Disney. From Walt’s desire to enlist in World War I to our daily tradition of the flag retreat at Magic Kingdom Park honoring all branches of the armed forces, it’s no surprise that veterans of the United States Navy play a special part in the history of Walt Disney World.
Roy O. Disney, Walt’s brother who took up the mantle of bringing Disney World to life, served in the Navy during World War I. Today, Disney continues to hire, train and support veterans through the Heroes Work Here initiative. These cast members join Roy’s legacy as magic makers, helping guests make memories they’ll never forget. As we celebrate the Navy’s 248th birthday today, we’d like to introduce you to three exceptional cast members who served in the Navy before becoming part of that legacy on the watercraft transportation team at Disney World.
Chrissy – Magic Kingdom Watercraft
When you’re the youngest kid in your family, you don’t get to drive the boat very often. At least, that was Chrissy’s experience growing up on a marina in Kentucky.
The daughter of two Navy veterans, she was inspired by her parents to serve her country in the U.S. Armed Forces. Her mother was one of the first women to ever serve in the Navy during World War II as part of the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) program. When she enlisted, Chrissy became part of a family legacy of women dedicated to military service.
As a yeoman in the Navy for 20 years, Chrissy was stationed in bases across the United States, from a submarine drydock in California to a chaplain school in Rhode Island. She even helped establish the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, Texas.
Though Chrissy will always be the youngest of her siblings, she’s now the one driving the boats that transport guests to and from Magic Kingdom Park, and some of her favorite colleagues are her fellow veterans.
“I love working with my fellow veterans,” Chrissy said. “We have an understanding, a friendship and a family. We have an appreciation for people, and we have a heart for taking care of people. Disney provides veterans such a happy place to fulfill that desire after we’re retired.”
Not only does Chrissy work alongside fellow veterans at Disney, she also works aboard two ferryboats named after Disney Legends who served in the armed forces. The General Joe Potter ferry recently received an updated green paint scheme as a nod to its namesake’s service in the United States Army. Next year, the Admiral Joe Fowler ferry will be refurbished and will return with a blue paint scheme to honor its namesake’s service in the Navy.
Mike – Sassagoula River Cruise
Piloting another blue boat on property, 76-year-old Navy veteran Mike can be found at Sassagoula River Cruise ensuring his guests get to their destination on time. Mike runs a tight ship, which may be because he completed five tours on the aircraft carrier, USS Intrepid (CV-11) during the Vietnam War.
Like Chrissy, Mike was inspired to join the Navy because of his family; his uncle worked on submarines during his military service. Mike proudly shares that he joined the U.S. Navy Reserve when he was still in high school, showing his dedication to his country by making the walk to and from his local base every single week at that time.
Following his fifth tour in the Navy, Mike returned home to focus on his family. His service instilled a passion for travel and a love for the world; he crossed the Suez Canal twice, sailed the Antarctic, visited Australia and more. Now, Mike and his wife open their home to children from around the world through adoption. Their children have come from China, Vietnam, Guatemala, and more to join Mike’s loving family.
In his role at Disney, Mike encourages his work family to celebrate and acknowledge the veterans they see aboard the Sassagoula River Cruise.
“I always salute the veterans I see,” Mike said. “Any veteran comes on my boat, I say ‘A-ten-hut! We have a hero onboard!’ and I salute them. I do them honor because they deserve that honor.”
David – FriendShip Boats
Navy veteran David takes a slightly different approach to making magic for his guests. “I’m the foremost Disney dad joke-teller on the FriendShip Boats,” David laughed. “I like not only informing guests about what we have to offer but telling jokes about where we’re going.”
If you’ve ever let out a giggle at one of “Captain David’s” jokes while sailing across Crescent Lake, you’re not alone; his goal is to make every guest’s day just a little bit brighter. He’s made a big splash in the short time he’s been at Disney, too. In his first six months at FriendShip Boats, he was named “Cast Member of the Quarter.”
David served as a Navy hospital corpsman during the Persian Gulf War. Empathy, David says, is what he learned most from his service to the country, and it’s what he tries to instill in all cast members he trains. “I love helping people,” David explained. It’s no surprise that he’s continued to serve others in various roles after his time in the military.
Thank you to David, Mike, Chrissy and all Navy veterans who have bravely served this country and made Disney World what it is today. We salute you on the U.S. Navy’s birthday and every day here at Disney!