Uniformed service members lined up during a ceremony at a Disney park.

Disney Salutes: Meaningful Support for the U.S. Military Community and Veterans

For more than a century, Disney has remained steadfast in its dedication to honor American military service members, veterans, and their families. Disney’s legacy of support dates back to the founders of the company, Walt and his brother Roy, who both served in World War I. Their service established a tradition of respect, recognition, and support for service members that continues to this day. On countless occasions, Disney’s charitable giving to veteran organizations, designated programs and poignant events like the daily flag retreat ceremonies have provided much-needed emotional support and professional encouragement.

“Disney has admired our nation’s veterans and military service members and their families for more than 100 years,” said Josh D’Amaro, Chairman, Disney Experiences. “Whether they celebrate with us as guests or contribute to the Disney magic as Cast Members and Imagineers, U.S. service men and women continue to inspire all of us. We’re honored to support and recognize them for their selfless military service.”

Disney-themed military insignias

During World War II and through the  decades that followed, The Walt Disney Company helped to bolster the morale of U.S. forces with specially designed logos and insignias, some of which are still in use today. As part of this program, Disney artists have created more than 1,200 of these designs, which were proudly displayed on aircraft, medical units, uniforms and other military equipment.

One of the characters most often requested was Donald Duck, whose toughness and grit embodied the persistence of many service members. After America’s entry into World War II, 93% of the company’s output was war-related, including animated training films for the Armed Forces. Meanwhile, Disney characters played a role in raising the spirits of those back home through cartoons that promoted nationwide patriotism. Many of these animated shorts starred Donald, who became an unofficial mascot of those serving their country during the war.

Cartoon illustration of Donald Duck in an airplane.

Disney’s donations to veteran and military organizations

Since 2012, Disney donations to veteran and military organizations have surpassed $20 million in funding, in-kind donations and media support. These donations have gone to various nonprofit organizations, each focusing on a different aspect of support for veterans and their families. Some of these charities include:

  • Blue Star Families
  • Disabled American Veterans
  • Fisher House Foundation
  • Gary Sinise Foundation
  • Student Veterans of America
  • Toys for Tots
  • Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors (TAPS)
  • USO
  • Wounded Warrior Project

75+ Years of Disney supporting Toys for Tots

Among the many impactful charitable organizations Disney supports during holiday season, the Toys for Tots program, run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, is perhaps Disney’s longest-running collaboration. The two entities became associated in the late 1940s, when Walt Disney was among the first to raise his hand to help with Toys for Tots. Walt went on to oversee his studio artists creating the iconic three-train logo that is still in use after more than 75 years.

This professional and philanthropic relationship culminates in an annual campaign known as the Disney Ultimate Toy Drive, through which volunteers, Marines and guests all gather to donate toys to children in need. Since its founding, Toys for Tots Marines and volunteers have distributed 677 million toys to more than 301 million children. In 2023, the organization set a record of distributing more than 25 million toys to over 10 million children, thanks in part to the collaboration with the Disney Ultimate Toy Drive.

Walt Disney holding a stuffed animal next to a bin of toys reading Give Toys for Tots.

Disney salutes service and sacrifice

The members of the U.S. Armed Forces serve their country honorably through hard work, service and sacrifice, and Disney is honored to continue to support them.

Among the many ways Disney supports has been hosting wounded, ill and injured active duty and military veterans at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort for the Invictus Games Orlando 2016 and the 2022 U.S. Department of Defense Warrior Games.

Disney cast members welcoming Warrior Games athletes.

Throughout the games, hundreds of elite athletes, including those from international allied nations, compete in adaptive sporting events such as wheelchair basketball, cycling, indoor rowing and wheelchair rugby, among others.

The Walt Disney Company has been honored to donate the venue and services for this uplifting and inspiring event and welcome these intrepid veterans and their families to Walt Disney World and thank them for their service.

Continuing this long-standing support for the U.S. Armed Forces, Disney is honored to welcome the DoD Warrior Games back to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World June 21-30, 2024.

Honoring family members of fallen military heroes with the Gary Sinise Foundation

Each December, the Gary Sinise Foundation brings hundreds of families to Walt Disney World for “Snowball Express”, a five-day healing retreat for the children of fallen military and first responder heroes, surviving spouses and their families. During this annual event, families have an opportunity to bond with others who share their experience and understand the emotions that persist throughout their healing journey. 

Snowball Express began soon after a letter written by U.S. Army Private First Class Jesse Givens was published following his death during Operation Iraqi Freedom May 3, 2003. The letter expressed how much Jesse loved his family and his wish for his wife to take their children to Disney Parks, and inspired the nation to help more families of fallen heroes.

The first annual Snowball Express was held at Disneyland Resort in 2006 with Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band getting involved soon after. In 2017, Snowball Express became an official initiative of the Gary Sinise Foundation and moved to Walt Disney World. This past year, Disney hosted nearly 3,000 children and surviving spouses/guardians of fallen military and first responder heroes.

Disney support for veteran hiring

Disney collaborates with organizations working to support the needs of veterans entering and already in the workplace by increasing recruitment and hiring of veterans and their spouses, providing support for student veterans and contributing to their efforts to transition veterans to civilian workplaces. The company is proud to be a leading proponent of hiring, training and supporting military veterans with the Heroes Work Here initiative, the Heroes Supply Here program and Disney’s Veterans Institute

Student Veterans of America

Student Veterans of America (SVA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to elevating and empowering veterans through higher education opportunities. SVA’s programs connect student veterans across the United States with resources, networking and financial aid opportunities.

The Walt Disney Company has worked closely with Student Veterans of America since launching the Heroes Work Here initiative in 2012. By helping military veterans transition to civilian working life, Disney and SVA strive to find methods of educating and enriching the lives of the highly skilled veterans of the Armed Forces.

On November 13, 2023, The Walt Disney Company announced a $1 million donation to SVA as part of Disney’s commitment to helping veterans find meaningful careers following their military service. With this donation, Disney became the founding sponsor of a new virtual SVA Career Center, which empowers veterans with the tools and guidance they need to successfully transition into the civilian workforce. This transformational initiative will unlock veterans’ full potential like never before.

Disney Experiences Chairman Josh D’Amaro with Mickey Mouse and Student Veterans of America president and CEO Jared Lyon.
Disney Experiences Chairman Josh D’Amaro with Mickey Mouse and Student Veterans of America president and CEO Jared Lyon

In making this charitable investment, Disney deepened and expanded upon its 10-year relationship with SVA. The veteran nonprofit is a leader in advocacy for U.S. military veterans in higher education. Through a network of more than 1,600 on-campus chapters in all 50 states and three countries overseas, SVA provides necessary resources, network support and advocacy to ensure student veterans can effectively expand their skills and prepare them for meaningful post-military careers.

Blue Star Families

Founded in 2009, Blue Star Families addresses the unique challenges of military life by providing a platform for families to connect, share experiences and access critical support services. The organization nurtures a strong sense of community and helps advocate for policies that benefit military families.

Disney regularly participates in the organization’s Blue Star Books event, which donates and holds distribution events of Disney books for military children and families. Blue Star Books also hosts book clubs for children and adults, helping military families connect through the wonders of reading. To date, Disney has contributed more than 300,000 books to the Blue Star Books program since its inception.

Disney VoluntEARS providing children with plush Mickey Mouse toys and books.
Disney has enjoyed an enduring collaboration with Blue Star Families – a nonprofit for and by military families – to provide support to their Blue Star Books program that encourages reading among military children.

Disney donations and veteran support

Disney’s longstanding commitment to military personnel and veterans is reflected in its 100- year history of donations, support and help for veterans and their families. Whether it’s through charitable contributions, training programs or theme park discounts, The Walt Disney Company continues to exemplify respect and honor for those who have sacrificed and contributed to the United States Armed Forces.