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Walt Disney World Welcomes a Hero Home to Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Gil Mercado, a 22-year-old culinary Cast Member at Disney’s Yacht Club resort was recently welcomed back to his home resort by the Walt Disney Company following a six-month deployment in Afghanistan.

Mercado just served his second tour of duty in the Middle East with the U.S. Army Reserves and other Cast Members and Disney leaders were thrilled to honor him with a warm welcome home at Walt Disney World.

Credit: Disney

General Manager of Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort Resorts Kim Marinaccio says, “I grew up in a military household, so being able to welcome this brave Soldier and Disney Cast Member home and thank him for his service was special to me. In fact, it was the highlight of my 31-year career with Disney.” (You can hear more from her and see his homecoming in this video by Disney Parks Blog.

Mercado kept the Disney magic alive even while he was serving his country overseas. He brought his role of creating happiness and the training and skills he learned from being a Walt Disney World Cast Member to his his colleagues and civilians during his deployment.

Credit: Disney

On the subject of bringing the magic wherever his role brings him, Mercado shared, “As a Cast Member, we learn that our goal is to create happiness and try to make happiness anywhere you are…Before I was deployed, I packed a roll of Mickey stickers in my bag, which I was able to share with local children as our unit traveled. Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces was priceless.”

Upon his arrival at the resort, he was greeted by SALUTE, the Disney Veterans Business Employer Resource Group with breakfast at Ale and Compass, the restaurant whose culinary team he works on at the Walt Disney World Resort. Chefs at the restaurant created a magical moment by supplementing his breakfast with the largest butcher’s-cut steak onsite when they learned that steak was the meal he missed most during his deployment.

Walt Disney World Yacht Club Resort _ Disney Fanatic

Credit: Disney

Mercado is currently still serving active duty while on military leave from Disney and will soon test for his sergeant’s stripes. He is now looking forward to spending some time at home and exploring Walt Disney World this week, and we here at Disney Fanatic thank him for his service.

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."