It was a total surprise. Military kids Ryan, age 8, and Johnily, age 11, had no idea where they were going as they left Ft. Hood that day. You can imagine how their eyes must have gotten bigger as the cruise ship came into view. And how the excitement increased as they boarded the beautiful vessel, reading the words Carnival Freedom along the side.
The name of the ship was aptly chosen…because those who protect our freedom were about to be given a grand celebration!
Army Major John Considine and his wife Marily were excited when they were chosen to attend Celebrate Freedom, a night planned by Carnival Cruise Line and Operation Homefront, to honor military families and welcome the ship to its new homeport in Galveston, Texas. “We had never been on a cruise ship, the kids thought it was amazing!” said Marily.
But the night was even more special because of the years that came before that night. Along with the difficult sacrifices military families have to make, Marily has battled breast cancer for four years. And one of their favorite songs, “I’m Gonna Love You Through It,” is sung by Martina McBride, who performed in a special outdoor Carnival LIVE Performance on the top deck.
“We were only 3-4 rows from (her),” said Marily. The beautiful weather made for a perfect evening and they were able to dance together.
Carnival organized the pierside event for hundreds of military families who got to spend one night on the cruise ship, enjoying all the best:
- entertainment (music, dancing, comedians, video arcade and more),
- food (complimentary food and cocktails, from Guy’s Burger Joint (created with Guy Fieri) to lobster at dinner and everything in between),
- fun (hot tubs, dancing waiters, ice cream kiosks, comfy rooms) and
- the cruise ship experience (fresh air, beautiful environment, free kids camp, friendly staff)
And the celebration got even bigger when Carnival President Christine Duffy presented a $100,000 check to Operation Homefront, “so you can continue to do the great service that you provide today for military families.”
For the Considine family, they were touched by all of the non-military families on board who took the time to thank John for his service. “The appreciation (from Carnival and the other guests) was wonderful and nice to hear.”
As for Ryan and Johnily, who is a semi-finalist for Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year, they enjoyed unlimited amounts of ice cream, pizza at midnight (just because they could), fun in the hot tub, the arcade and the theatre dance show. “As much as they explored, they were still unable to see everything,” said Marily.
“We would like to thank Carnival for this opportunity and it was nice to see the ($100,000) donation by them to Operation Homefront.”
The family capped a night under the stars watching a “dive-in” movie on the Lido Deck while their kids swam in the nearby hot tub. We wish them many more nights (and days) of happiness together.
Operation Homefront is extremely grateful for partners like Carnival Cruise Line who not only help us honor and celebrate military families but also provide much needed emergency financial and other assistance for military, veteran and wounded warrior families.