Each year, Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegal gives more than 1,000 veterans from the war on terror the opportunity to come to Florida and enjoy a free vacation, with exclusive access to theme parks, rides and attractions. Westgate Resorts recently hosted its annual “Honor Our Heroes” event.
The event has been held annually for more than six years, and Westgate Resorts continues to improve each year and provide more opportunities to veterans and their families.
“Five or six years ago David came up with the idea that we should give away free vacations to anyone who had fought in the war on terror,” said Westgate Chief Operating Officer Mark Waltrip, himself a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. “It really began to grow every year afterward, and just kept getting bigger and bigger. This year [we] thought it would be a great idea to throw one large event and invite veterans to it, and provide entertainment and entrance to the theme parks.”
This year was a little different than most and featured a full-blown military resource fair for veterans and their families to attend during their stay.
“So they can not only come to Florida to enjoy a vacation and have a chance to visit these theme parks and attractions and things like that, but we also have this military resource fair so they could get information on services that they may or may not know was available to them,” Waltrip said. “Just seeing the reaction from the troops, we decided we were going to do it this way every year.”
Each year, Westgate Resorts send out a press release with the exact dates of its offer for veterans, and the first 1,500 callers who provide proof of service in Afghanistan or Iraq during the War on Terror receive passes to the event.
Waltrip wants to push the event even further next year, and he hopes to continue to grow the event and allow even more people to enjoy the opportunity.
His goal is to “… challenge the rest of the hospitality industry to step with us and help this vision go beyond our borders,” Waltrip added.