Those simple words of bright-eyed, eight-year-old Jessy Hill described her father as she held his neck after celebrating a dream-come-true Disney moment.
Jessy and her 11-year-old brother, Austin, got the opportunity of a lifetime Aca,!" to be grand marshals of one of the most famous parades known to anyone who has ever been a fan of Mickey Mouse.
Sgt. James Hill, an Army Reserve Soldier who recently returned from his second deployment to Iraq, and his wife, Keri, were attending an Army Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Workshop when the Hill family was randomly selected to be honored during the weekend parade.
Aca,!A"I couldnAca,!a,,ct think of a better way to celebrate what they endured during my deployment,Aca,!A? he said about his children. Aca,!A"Like other military families, our deployments are not just about the Soldier. It also affects our children in more ways than one may see and, hopefully, will not go unnoticed.Aca,!A?
Thousands of onlookers packed sidewalks, street corners and small patches of green grass as the thumping, tap-your-feet beat of Aca,!A"Celebrate a Dream Come TrueAca,!A? parade music engulfed the young and old during the daily parade here.
It was that time of day, where people from different cultures and ideals stood together to celebrate their own dreams and forget their worries in a way only Disney could deliver -- a moving musical to celebrate dreams with an extra swirl of special recognition to all U.S. military families.
As the announcer broadcast an acknowledgment of the Month of the Military Child and the Hill Family to the entire Magical Kingdom, strangers from all over the world stood and began clapping. Sporadic chants of Aca,!A"thank youAca,!A? and Aca,!A"we love youAca,!A? could be easily heard over the pounding music.
For one memorable hour, Austin and Jessy Hill were not only representing Army Reserve children, but every U.S. military child around the world.
Aca,!A"TheyAca,!a,,cve earned it,Aca,!A? Keri Hill said about her children who have gone through two recent deployments. Aca,!A"TheyAca,!a,,cve gone a whole year with just me and without their father. They need to have a lot of fun, and thatAca,!a,,cs what we are doing here today.Aca,!A?
She said military children experience deployments differently than adults.
Aca,!A"They are without a parent and donAca,!a,,ct exactly understand what the deployment is about,Aca,!A? Keri Hill said. Aca,!A"They rely on us, as parents, to explain why their mom or dad is leaving for an extended period of time. I think it impacts them harder than it does us.Aca,!A?
After the non-stop waving and with a big smile etched on his face, Austin Hill said the short ride was an amazing experience he will never forget. He couldnAca,!a,,ct wait to return to his home in Canton, N.C., to tell his family and friends about his magical experience.
Aca,!A"I enjoyed seeing the crowdAca,!a,,cs faces,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"There are people out there that really do care about Soldiers like my dad. It really makes me feel good about what he does as he serves our country with other Soldiers in Iraq.Aca,!A?
Austin also quickly echoed his sisterAca,!a,,cs view and said his father went to do something for his country Aca,!" something most youth his age never experience.
Aca,!A"He did the right thing,Aca,!A? he said about his father going to Iraq. Aca,!A"HeAca,!a,,cs definitely my hero, too.Aca,!A?
When asked about one good thing about the deployment, Austin laughed and said, Aca,!A"We had one less mouth to feed and more food for me.Aca,!A?
The witty young Carolinian also had some advice for other youngsters whose parents deploy overseas.
Aca,!A"It will be nothing,Aca,!A? he said hugging his father. Aca,!A"It will be over in a while, and they will be home soon.Aca,!A?
Both James and Keri Hill said communication was the key ingredient for their successful deployment away from home.
Aca,!A"I think you have to be honest and explain what is happening but not make it scary,Aca,!A? she said about discussing deployment with children. Aca,!A"We tried to make the most of it.Aca,!A?
From trips to the local movie theatre to late nights on the webcam with James, Keri Hill said listening to their children made a world of difference.
Aca,!A"We canAca,!a,,ct replace dad but we did our best in his absence,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"They need to know that we care enough and the community cares enough to honor them. They get to come here and not worry about anything and most importantly, dad made it back home.Aca,!A?
After experiencing the musical parade from the helm, Keri Hill was amazed by the support for the military family.
Aca,!A"This would bring a tear to anyoneAca,!a,,cs eye to experience what my family just went through,Aca,!A? she said.
As the Hill family disappeared into the sea of people from around the world and the ropes holding back the parade onlookers were taken away, everything seemed to go back to normal Aca,!" a typical family enjoying the magical moments of spending time together in a place where dreams did come true for two military children.
Aca,!A"Our deployments are never about my absence, but rather about our children,Aca,!A? James Hill said. Aca,!A"They are the true American heroes, like so many other families who are separated as their mothers or fathers serve our country and protect the ideals we instill in our children.Aca,!A?