Celebrating 20 Years of Corps Service at Disneyland

Categories: Family Retreats, Highlights, Support Our Troops

Patriot and Freedom Alliance donor Jill Atterbury gave an endowment gift to our organization to fund vacations for service members who desperately need a getaway. She named the gift “Poppy’s Wish,” after her father, Malcom—the beloved actor and her “Poppy.”


We at Freedom Alliance have the privilege of finding those service members who have been through a tough spell and could benefit from a Poppy’s Wish Heroes’ Vacation.


Chuck, a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps, has spent a couple of years rehabilitating at Camp Lejeune’s Wounded Warrior Battalion. Three deployments to Iraq has left him with a host of medical problems, and when we last spoke to him in December, he was preparing to be retired after 20 years of service.


It became clear to us that Chuck and his family were in need of some leisure time, and we wanted him to know that his years in the Corps mattered. A Freedom Alliance team member asked him how he would celebrate his retirement, and Chuck didn’t really know.


Well, the more we chatted, the more we realized that this family was the kind that Jill had in mind when she created Poppy’s Wish. With some digging, we found out that Chuck’s wife, Mila, has relatives in Southern California, and that a Disneyland vacation was just the thing for them and their two children, Mallory (16) and Tristan (10).


We arranged the vacation to include five days touring the park and visiting family while staying at the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, and a final three days at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach.


By the time Chuck’s family flew home to North Carolina, their vacation time had made a transformative impact. Chuck said he felt like his marriage was renewed, reinforced, and the bonds with his children strengthened.


Ten-year-old Tristan wrote Jill in a thank-you note, “You made my family have fun and become closer.” He said the vacation was one of his “best memories ever.”

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