When I got the offer from Operation Homefront to attend a Veteran’s Recognition Day, I wasn’t sure what to think. Immediately my mom brain said “YES OMG THE KIDS WILL FREAK OUT” and right after I said yes, my caregiver brain freaked out. I started going through every single thing that could happen and what to do in each scenario.
In short, I was a mess.
Every one was excite, with my Warrior being the exception, but after so much progress and classes, it seemed like the ultimate test for how far he had come. He agreed as long as it wasn’t going to be at a significant financial cost because that sort of thing just stresses him out even more. Luckily, I am the master of rewards programs so I scheduled our free nights in the area, rented the car at a ridiculously cheap rate and put it on the calendar.
No idea what to expect, really.
My brain worked over time trying to figure out what could possibly happen in advance. Much to my surprise, it seemed like the team at Operation Homefront had really thought through a lot of the details. When I found out we had valet parking, I cheered out loud. There would be no forcing my Warrior to snake through a huge parking lot, getting frustrated and tired. We handed over our keys and reported to the tent to pick up our passes. It was our assumption that they would be giving us day tickets and we would just enjoy it for whatever time my Warrior could tolerate it.
Instead, a miracle occurs.
There are t-shirts, season tickets, refillable cups, vouchers for lunch and gold parking passes. We make our way, dumbfounded, into guest services to get registered. We arrived early because we thought that would be best for my Warrior and that by the time he became a bit stressed later; we could leave when the crowds got bigger. Once we were done we had a bit of time for rides and then headed to eat before meeting the group at the gazebos for a “program.” Again, zero expectations here but the schedule indicated we were getting a VIP tour.
I had NO idea what that really meant.
After a check presentation and a moment of silence, we were then assigned our tour guide. We were assigned Jonathan Sims II and I must say, he was THE best person we could have gotten. Ever. Like so great, if you go to Atlanta and do a Six Flags VIP tour, you should ask for him. He is the most professional ambassador for the company that they could have, really, he needs a raise! What did VIP mean? APPARENTLY it means unlimited snacks and getting to cut in the front of the line. Like WAY in front. Even in front of Fast Pass guests.
I almost cried.
We hadn’t thought we would stay past lunch. The crowds had begun to swell and my Warrior gave me that look. You know the one. The “I gotta get outta here in about 30 minutes” look. Instead, I now found us being escorted to the front of rides that he would never have been able to tolerate the line for. Aside from the length of time in a ride, the narrow, winding ramps of irritated hot waiting riders would be too much for someone who needs his personal space and NO ONE standing behind him.
It was glorious.
Jonathan was kind, patient and enthusiastic. He would go anywhere as long as we wanted him hanging out with us. My Warrior got to act like a kid, ride coasters and laugh in a ways that he hadn’t in years. It was beautiful to see.
Props to Operation Homefront
In all of the invitations we have received or events we have attended, this was hands down, the BEST experience. We felt cared for and that thought had gone into what a Warrior needed to make the day feel, well, normal. Our normal isn’t everyone else’s and honestly, it never will be but these folks went out of their way to make sure that it could FEEL normal. That is something I could never have paid for and I will never forget.