Honoring Heroes: Employees Share Their Love of Country

View of America flags with white text that says "Honoring Our Heroes."

Have you ever heard the phrase, not all heroes wear capes? Sometimes their cape comes in the form of a jet, boots on the ground or just a heart for service. Oftentimes, if you call a military veteran or current service member a hero, they’ll respond with both gratitude and humility. That’s because for so many of them, it’s not about being a hero – it’s about their love of country and the desire to protect the place they call home.

In honor of Military Appreciation Month, which recognizes those who currently serve or served in the U.S. Military, we caught up with a few Holland America Line employees to share their experience and what it meant to them.

Here are their stories:

View of person in white blouse with gray background.

Meet Bonnie

If you’ve ever reached out to our Personal Cruise Consultants to help plan the ultimate vacation, you may have connected with Bonnie. She loves caring for others and helping them embark on unforgettable journeys. That passion was ignited long before she began working in the cruise line industry 30 years ago – she just didn’t know it yet.

“I served in the U.S. Military from 1987 until 1993 during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Initially, I joined because I didn’t have a clear direction of what I wanted to do with my life.”

Though she wasn’t sure where the future would take her, she was certain about one thing: her love of country.

Serving in the United States Air Force, her enlistment began in Supply Chain where she helped maintain, organize, receive and deliver classified and non-classified materials. Bonnie worked with many different aircraft, including the SR-71 Blackbird. Realizing how much she enjoyed customer service, she began volunteering for the Public Affairs team during off-duty hours and officially transferred. She wrote for the newspaper at Patrick Air Force Base in Cape Canaveral where she witnessed several rocket launches involving the Space Shuttle, Pegasus and Delta Satellites. She also briefed high-ranking foreign dignitaries, escorted tours of the base and helped plan an airshow over the course of her three assignments.

Her love for communication would soon take her to the eye of the storm when Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida. “After the hurricane, I worked in a tent set up as a bare-bones Public Affairs office amid the destruction and wrote articles about the clean-up and recovery. One of my articles was shared across the AP Wire.”

Bonnie was stationed in other places around the world, including Japan. Though she saw the best of humanity, forming lifelong friendships and learning about cultures across the globe, she also witnessed conflict and felt its toll.

View of person in military uniform with American flag in background.

“Experiencing rich cultures and traditions and the camaraderie between service members was an unbreakable bond. On the flip side, serving during military conflicts and having to work 12-hour shifts or more with no days off for weeks at a time was very character-building, as you had to persevere through exhaustion to perform the job with accuracy. I’m proud to have served and have a great love for the principles the United States represents. If you ask someone who serves or served why we do it, it’s for love of country and our fellow Americans – and we would do it again.”

View of person wearing plaid shirt with trees in background.

Meet Chris

As a Resolutions Specialist who has been part of the Holland America Line family for 14 years, Chris supports the guest experience with our Reservations team. He loves problem solving, mentoring talent, leaning in to create positive outcomes and traveling the world. That passion for teamwork and world travel were evident long before Chris joined the cruise industry. They were instrumental in his decision to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps as an Administration Specialist for four years.

“The Marines were considered the best of the best and trained young boys to become men,” Chris said. “I needed some direction and maturing in my life after college, and I wanted to see the world. Plus, have you seen our Dress Blues uniforms? They just look amazing!”

Meeting new people, forming special bonds that last a lifetime, and experiencing different cultures had a significant impact on who he was professionally and personally.

“The Marines helped me to mature and understand responsibility not only for myself but also for my fellow Marines that are beside me. In the Marines we live by this creed of Honor, Courage and Commitment. These are not just words. These are core principles that we live by every day in or out of uniform. These words have stuck with me to guide me in my career and in life as well.”

View of U.S. Marine in uniform on base.

Honoring this creed is something Chris is incredibly proud of. Even when times were tough, living the values and core principles of the U.S. Marines gave him strength and perseverance when he needed it most. They helped shape his heart for service and the dedication to make a difference in his community.

Though Military Appreciation Month is a special time of year when he and those he served with feel valued and seen by their communities, its significance goes beyond that for him. He uses this time to reflect on the memories he made with those who stood by him during humanitarian aid operations, training exercises and holidays away from home. However, the honor and pride he has from serving in the military is something he feels year-round. It’s a feeling that will always stay with him.

“It is still to this day a very proud honor to have earned the title of a United States Marine. Oorah!”

View of Holland America Line employee on board during vacation with ocean and sunset in background.

Meet Jenine

If you booked a cruise with Holland America Line within the last three years, you may have connected with Jenine, one of our Sales Agents. She loves connecting with those new to cruising and helping guests make the most of their vacation when they sail the seas with us. Her love for logistics and planning, as well as the sea, was ignited years before she joined the U.S. Navy.

“I’m a Navy Brat,” she said playfully.

Her father retired from the U.S. Navy, and she loved hearing about his world travels. Witnessing her father’s commitment to service inspired her to do the same, and it greatly impacted how she valued loyalty and friendship. Jenine enjoyed working with others who were passionate about serving their country and traveling the world.

“Serving helped to strengthen my loyalty to friends and coworkers. It nurtured my love of travel and love for the open seas. Being out in the middle of an ocean, anywhere in the world, brings about peace and serenity. The ocean is truly my ‘happy place’ on earth. It also strengthened my work ethic by striving to give my very best.”

Jenine served in the Gulf War during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She was a Logistics Specialist on the USS Hunley, which was a tender used to support submarines. Learning about different cultures and serving in the military to help protect her country makes her proud to this day. And true to her caring spirit for community, she acknowledged that Military Appreciation Month is an opportunity to also recognize the families of those who serve and give their all.

“Military Appreciation Month is about taking a moment to appreciate those who are currently serving, and recognizing those who have served in the past, or have given their life for our country. It is also about recognizing the families who are serving alongside their spouses, and the families who have made tremendous sacrifices for our country. My husband served in the U.S. Navy for 26 years. After I got out of the Navy, I was able to continue to ‘serve’ alongside him for another 14 years.”

View of person in military uniform with American flag in background.

Bonnie, Chris and Jenine, thank you for sharing your hearts and stories of service with us.

To those who have given their all – past and present – and to the families who love them…we honor you today and every day.


Join the Discussion


  1. GREG SHARP May 12, 2024 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    So during Military Appreciation Month, HAL is offering $100 shipboard credit for future cruises. But what about those of us who booked back in early 2024?

  2. Kelly Dannen May 6, 2024 at 6:00 am - Reply

    Thank you all for your service!

  3. Richard Ziolkowski May 4, 2024 at 9:00 am - Reply

    Congratulations to all of my fellow veterans for a job well done. always an honor to work with a veteran.

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