Marine Corps Veteran Finds Magic at Disney

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3, Ariel Elias

By Army Sgt. Jason Goselin

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3, Ariel Elias, served 21 years in the U.S. Marine Corps during operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. As he approached his 20-year mark, Elias knew it was time to honor his family for their years of sacrifice and support during his career.

“I knew I could retire and focus on my family,” said Elias. “Being a present husband and dad and being with my family and friends was my priority.” 

With his eyes set toward the future, Elias began to look for opportunities to ensure his success in the civilian sector. He discovered the DoD Skill Bridge program, which pairs transitioning service members with companies looking for the skills military men and women possess. 

“I applied for the Skill Bridge Program and was selected out of 30+ service members,” said Elias. “I was the only one to be selected on the west coast, specifically Anaheim and the Disneyland Resort.”

Elias landed in the sourcing and procurement department, where he managed and negotiated contracts for the Disneyland Resort. 

“It created an opportunity for me to get a peek behind the curtain and see how some of the magic was made,” said Elias. “That opportunity led to an actual role for me to apply, and ultimately be hired to.”

After being brought on full-time at Disneyland as a supplier diversity manager, Elias started immersing himself in the culture and found a population of veterans like himself. 

“I realized there was a community at the Disneyland Resort that revolved around veterans,” said Elias. “They created opportunities for our cast of veterans, friends, and allies to get together and build comradery.” 

Elias got involved in the Salute program, which is Disney’s volunteer-led resource group dedicated to servicemembers, veterans, military families, and veteran employees. When Elias suggested attending the Warrior Games to Salute leadership, it was an easy sell. 

“I found out Walt Disney World and ESPN Wide World of Sports were hosting the DoD Warrior Games,” said Elias. “We made a case for us to come out here, which was very easy.” 

Making the 3,000-mile journey from California to Florida to be a part of the Warrior Games was a simple decision for Elias. Giving back to the military community will always be a priority for him. 

“I served for 21 years during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom,” said Elias. “I have many friends who are wounded warriors, so this opportunity is humbling and something I’m very passionate about.” 

Elias is proud to work for a company that takes pride in supporting our service members, veterans, and families. He wants service members to know they have a home at Disney.