A Marine from Rancho Cucamonga who died in Afghanistan in 2021 was honored during Disneyland’s daily flag retreat ceremony Monday.
Lance Cpl. Dylan Ryan Merola was acknowledged during the park’s daily ceremony in Town Square.
Merola was killed in action in 2021 during the bombing at Kabul airport. Merola was one of the hundreds of American service members who were aiding in the evacuations of American and other foreign citizens in the country, as well as local Afghans who were American allies or considered to be part of a vulnerable population.
He and 12 other service members — including three other Marines from California — were killed when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt in the airport and then Islamic State gunmen opened fire on members of the crowd. In total, 183 people were killed in the attack.
Merola was based at Camp Pendleton, where he was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
Each day at Disneyland, park security, cast members and music entertainers hold a ceremony in the center of Town Square near the park entrance.
Service members past and present are honored and memorialized during the ceremony as the American flag is lowered from the pole and retired. It’s one of the park’s oldest traditions, Disney said.
On Monday, the family of Merola was on hand to hear a special dedication message and receive the day’s flag.
Marine Master Sergeant Patrick Hause presented Merola’s mother, Cheryl Rex, with the flag, as well as a Navy Achievement Medal. Merola’s sister, brother and grandparents were also in attendance. Merola’s brother, Branden, recently enlisted and graduated from Marine Corps Boot Camp just last week.
For the Merola family, Monday’s ceremony was made extra special due to the family’s longtime connection to the theme park.
“It meant so much to me today to honor my son. As he was growing up we attended a lot of things at Disneyland. We had season passes since he was little,” Rex said. “It’s very meaningful here, it’s a special place to us.”
In an opportunity afforded to very few people, the family was also given the opportunity to tour the apartment above the Disneyland firehouse where Walt Disney would stay on occasion.
For a family of Disney lovers, it was a moment that will be remembered for years to come; a parting gift from Dylan to his loved ones.
“To be out here with the flag ceremony was beautiful and amazing. It’s always more amazing to have my family with me,” said Rex.
For more information about the Disneyland flag retreat ceremony, click here.