BURBANK, Calif. – When Disney cast member Mike Woodhall began writing letters of support to U.S. Troops during Operation Desert Storm, he never imagined it would blossom into a company-wide initiative. Now, The Walt Disney Company cast members have continued the tradition of running Disney’s Operation Uplift, through which employees send messages of support and thanks to U.S. servicemen and women, including the sailors and marines serving aboard the U.S.S. Shreveport who are seeing duty in Operation Enduring Freedom. Their gratitude was expressed by their commanding officer, Captain William Valentine, in the letter that follows:
Greetings from the Commanding Officer of USS SHREVEPORT (LPD-12). My name is Captain Bill Valentine. I am sending you this note on behalf of everyone aboard to extend a sincere and heartfelt thank you to the entire Disney Corporation, and in particular, Mike Woodhall and his team at OPERATION UPLIFT, for all of your wonderful support.
SHREVEPORT has been deployed to the North Arabian Sea since 19 September in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. The ship’s homeport is Norfolk, Virginia and all 800 of our Sailors and Marines are counting the days until we return.
Mike made contact with the ship immediately after the tragic events of September 11th, just prior to the ship leaving on our current deployment. In fact, we put to sea on the day of the attacks to render any support we could. Mike and his team understood at once that our ship would be away from home for the Holiday’s. The OPERATION UPLIFT organization flew into action to make sure our Sailors and Marines knew how much their efforts were appreciated. The result was over 1,000 post cards, signed by the Disney family of characters, along with numerous gifts arriving aboard SHREVEPORT in time for Christmas. We distributed these gifts to all of our Sailors and Marines, and the smiles on their faces would have brought a tear to your eye. It was a great gesture by the Disney organization, one that had a profound and positive impact on the READINESS, SAFETY, and QUALITY OF LIFE for each and every person aboard. Mike and his team are to be commended for their tireless and dedicated support of this ship.
I also wanted to thank you for hosting “Military Appreciation Days”. I know that the uniformed men and women who proudly serve our country will thoroughly enjoy their stay in the MAGIC KINGDOM!
Please accept our thanks and deep appreciation for your company’s support of SHREVEPORT and the NAVY/MARINES CORPS. As a long time stockholder in your company, I know that the DISNEY CORP has business interests that span the globe and involve billions of dollars. However, the true character of your organization is reflected in the attitudes and actions of the individuals that make up the DISNEY FAMILY. For what it is worth, Mike Woodhall and his team made life at sea for over 800 people a little easier, a lot happier, and considerably more satisfying. It was a gesture of kindness that no one on SHREVEPORT will soon forget.
I have attached a picture that captures the spirit of thanks and appreciation of this Captain and his crew. I hope it brings a smile of pride and satisfaction to everyone at DISNEY.
Warm Regards and God Bless,
William D. Valentine, Jr.
USS SHREVEPORT (LPD-12)
FPO AE 09587-1714
Disney’s Operation Uplift was born in 1995, following its successful trial during Operation Desert Storm. During that conflict, Mr. Woodhall read a letter in the newspaper from a serviceman who said that the troops didn’t get much mail, but when they did they knew that people back at home cared and it meant the world to them. That struck a chord with Mr. Woodhall and he began writing to the troops to thank them for their efforts and to let them know people at home did indeed care about them. For his efforts, Mr. Woodhall was named 1998 “Disney VoluntEAR” at the Disneyland Resort.
Operation Uplift is among several initiatives at The Walt Disney Company to support U.S. troops. DisneyHand, the worldwide outreach of The Walt Disney Company, has coordinated efforts among ABC, Inc., ESPN, Disney Channel, The Walt Disney Studios, Disney Parks and Resorts, Disney Stores and local television and radio stations to support U.S. troops at home and abroad and to aid in the nation’s relief and rebuilding efforts. The Walt Disney Company has become a USO World Sponsor, assisting with outreach and marketing efforts on behalf of the USO and its programs and providing more than $1 million in financial aid and in-kind support. To honor American men and women fighting for freedom, the DISNEYLAND Resort and the Walt Disney World Resort announced an unprecedented program that allows active U.S. military personnel complimentary admission into Disney theme parks, as well as ticket discounts for family members and friends. “Disney’s Armed Forces Salute” will be offered until April 30, 2002, for active U.S. military personnel, with proper U.S. military identification.
In addition, The Walt Disney Company has been working closely with the Points of Light Foundation, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to involve more people more effectively in volunteer service. Immediately following the events of September 11th, The Walt Disney Company established the DisneyHand: Survivor Relief Fund, to which Disney made a corporate contribution of $5 million and Disney employees contributed more than $700,000. In late September, Disney companies created and introduced public service announcements featuring First Lady Laura Bush to help kids cope with their feelings and emotions about the September 11, attacks.