LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Apr. 23, 2009 – “My daddy is a hero,” says eight-year-old Jessy Hill as she gives her father a hug after celebrating a dream-come-true Disney moment.
Jessy and her 11-year-old brother, Austin, got the opportunity of a lifetime – to be grand marshals in the “Celebrate a Dream Come True” parade at Magic Kingdom. Grand marshals are randomly selected daily for the parade, but for the Hill family of Canton, NC, the magic of the day held extra special meaning.
Sgt. James Hill, a U.S. Army Reserve Soldier, recently returned from his second deployment to Iraq. The Hill family was in Orlando on April 18 to attend an Army Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Workshop when they were randomly recognized in honor of the Month of the Military Child.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate what they endured during my deployment,” Sgt. Hill said about his children. “Like other military families, our deployments are not just about the soldier. It also affects our children in more ways than one may see.”
Since 1986, the U.S. Army has designated April as the Month of the Military Child to recognize the important role that military children play in the armed forces community. It is a time to applaud America’s youngest heroes and thank them for the sacrifices they make in courageous support of their military parents.
“They’ve earned it,” Keri Hill said about her children who have gone through two recent deployments. “They’ve gone a whole year with just me and without their father. They need to have a lot of fun, and that’s what we are doing here today.” She said military children experience deployments differently than adults.
“They are without a parent and don’t exactly understand what the deployment is about,” Hill said. “They rely on us, as parents, to explain why their mom or dad is leaving for an extended period of time. I think it impacts them harder than it does us.”
After waving non-stop and with a big smile etched on his face, Austin Hill said the parade was an amazing experience he will never forget. He was amazed by the outpouring of support they encountered and couldn’t wait to return home to tell his family and friends about his magical experience.
“I enjoyed seeing the crowd’s faces,” he said. “There are people out there that really do care about soldiers like my dad. It really makes me feel good about what he does as he serves our country with other soldiers in Iraq.”