A special surprise awaited Richard Bloomfield during a recent trip to the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World.
It was the first trip for the Wyandotte resident and his wife, Deborah, without children or grandchildren.
Despite the unusually cold weather in Orlando, Florida, the couple were enjoying their visit when a Disney Guest Relations employee asked if he could help them find something.
As Deborah recalls, they asked for an attraction where they could warm up, at which point the employee informed them he was on a “secret mission.”
He was looking for someone to fill the position of honorary representative of the armed forces of the day. According to Bloomfield, Disney’s Tribute to a Current or Former Member of the United States Armed Forces takes place daily at 5 p.m. in the Magic Kingdom town square.
Richard Bloomfield said he was honored to be invited and eagerly accepted the invitation.
According to Bloomfield, Disney randomly selects either active duty military or veterans by scanning the crowd. It’s easy to spot active duty people in uniform, although spotting a veteran is a different story since they are dressed in civilian clothes, like most visitors to the park.
But in Bloomfield’s case, he assumes the Vietnam veteran hat he wore revealed him to be a proud veteran.
They chose him early in the day to have their veteran lined up for the ceremony and a short parade later in the afternoon. Bloomfield said he also took part in a brief practice before the ceremony so he knew exactly what to do.
He joined the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1964 and served until 1968. For three of those years he was stationed in Germany, first as a second lieutenant and then as a captain.
He was with a heavy construction company in Germany, but near the end of his service he was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. At Fort Bragg, he participated in special forces training that prepared him for a tour of duty in Vietnam, where he served from late summer 1967 until spring 1968.
For most of the time he was in Vietnam as a member of the Special Forces team, Bloomfield was not located in any town and for the most part was not near any town. He was in the country during the Tet Offensive, a coordinated series of attacks on more than 100 towns and outposts in South Vietnam.
“The serious action took place during the Tet Offensive,” Bloomfield said. “Our camp has been affected. In fact, we were attacked several times.
Prior to the ceremony and parade, he was introduced as Captain Richard Bloomfield of the Army Corps of Engineers, from Wyandotte, Michigan.
Predictably, the ceremony was quite a patriotic affair, with a quartet of barbers singing military service songs and “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the color guard gathered around the flagpole. On some occasions, a band plays during the ceremony, but Bloomfield said the band was absent on Jan. 29, the day he was honored.
After a member of the color guard lowered the flag, it was folded in military style and presented to Bloomfield, who carried it as he marched down Main Street to the sound of recorded music.
The parade route was about a block short, but people lined both sides of the street, cheering him along.
At the end of the parade, staff members formed a line to shake Bloomfield’s hand and thank him for his service.
Along with the American flag, he also received a certificate commemorating the occasion, as well as a lapel pin.
“They told me not to lose it because they only feature one pin a day and it’s not replaceable,” Bloomfield said.
Bloomfield is a member of both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, but had never attended a ceremony of this caliber, until his unexpected honor at Disney World.
“I felt privileged,” he said.
Bloomfield is a retired Ford Motor Co. engineer and serves as a deacon at Our Lady of the Scapular Parish in Wyandotte.