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Credit: Disney Parks/USA Today

Disneyland honors fallen marine who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the U. S. evacuation of Afghanistan in August 2021

Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World hold a special ceremony every evening. It’s part of a long-standing tradition in the parks, and as such, the ceremony takes place most days of the year, not just on special occasions. But earlier this week, the ceremony took on an even more special meaning at Disneyland’s Town Square.

Time-Honored Flag Retreat Ceremonies return to Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort | Disney Parks Blog

Credit: Disney Parks

Disneyland’s Flag Retreat Ceremony is part of a normal day at Disneyland Park in California. The ceremony is a way of honoring all those who have served in the United States Armed Forces–those who have served in the past and those who are currently serving their country.

Cpl. Merola’s mother, Cheryl Rex

Lance Cpl. Merola’s Mother, Cheryl Rex/Credit: Disney Parks

Earlier this week, however, the Flag Retreat Ceremony at Disneyland Park’s Town Square was held to honor and pay respect to the family of the late Lance Cpl. Dylan Ryan Merola. Lance Cpl. Merola gave the ultimate sacrifice a year ago as he served during the U. S. evacuation of Afghanistan. He was just 20 years old.

Special Flag Retreat Ceremony at Disneyland park

Credit: Disney Parks

Merola lost his life on August 26, 2021, as did twelve other servicemen and servicewomen who were participating in the evacuation from the south-central Asian country, named “Operation Freedom’s Sentinel,” during an attack outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

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The 13 servicemembers who lost their lives represented three branches of the U. S. Armed Forces. According to a press release from the Department of Defense, eleven Marines, one Navy corpsman, and one soldier “were killed as the result of an enemy attack while supporting non-combatant evacuation operations.”

This undated photo released by the 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton/U.S. Marines shows Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola/Credit: USA Today

According to Disney Parks Blog, several of those closest to Merola were in attendance at the Flag Retreat Ceremony:

In attendance were Cpl. Merola’s mother, Cheryl Rex, his grandparents, sister, and brother Brandon, who days earlier graduated from the Marine Corps Boot Camp. Cpl. Merola grew up locally in Rancho Cucamonga and often visited the Disneyland Resort with his family.

“It meant so much to me to honor my son,” Ms. Rex said. “Growing up, we attended a lot of things at Disneyland, and it’s very meaningful here. It’s a special place to us.”

Special Flag Retreat Ceremony at Disneyland park

Credit: Disney Parks

During the Flag Retreat Ceremony, Lance Cpl. Merola was posthumously presented with the Navy Achievement Medal by Marine Master Sgt. Patrick Hause. The honor recognizes the brave and heroic actions demonstrated by those in the U. S. Armed Forces during specific situations.

In September 2021, Lance Cpl Merola was praised by his family and friends for his bravery and his generosity during his funeral service. Merola was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Pendleton in his home state of California.

About Becky Burkett

I'm an enthusiastic writer who finds joy in random things like cold weather, snow, "I Love Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show," journals full of blank paper, countdowns to Christmas, the month of December, "Toy Story," "Sleeping Beauty," my 4 kids, my 4 shih tsus, Disney Parks history, Imagineering and visiting the parks. I think Walt Disney is the standard against which genius should be measured. I love to write about Disney Parks, Disney history, all things Imagineering and PIXAR. I adore the colors, story and art direction of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (Team Make it Blue!), and "Toy Story" is life (minus "Toy Story 4"). I believe Walt Disney was so much more than an entertainment and theme park tycoon; I believe he was a savant with a vision for life and how it could be if happiness and kindness are strived for. I love Biergarten at EPCOT and 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian. You can find me croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room, chillin' on the PeopleMover or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. I'm always looking for Imagineers in the parks, and I'd rather meet Joe Rohde and Tony Baxter than anyone in Hollywood! Hey, if you dream it, you really can do it!