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Sunday, I bid my son farewell before he headed back to base in Virginia.

Wes had been overseas for seven months, and was able to spend the past two weeks on leave here in Myrtle Beach.

As he pulled away, the reality hit me again, as it often does, that my son is a United States Marine. A Devil Dog.

Teufel_Hunden_US_Marines_recruiting_poster

Surreal.

I was also astonished to think about all he had done in the time he was here – a testament to squeezing as much enjoyment and quality time that you can out of a limited visit to a particular place.

The iffy thing for parents, spouses and loved ones of active duty servicemembers is to nail down exactly when they will be arriving, despite what they tell you. We have all heard horror stories of military delays, last-minute changeups and other logistical snafus. This can suck when it comes to airline reservations – particularly because there is really no way to get the best deals – not only for the servicemember, but also for family that might also want to fly in.

In this case, that family is my daughter and his twin sister, Taylor, who flew in from New York City the following weekend.

We also wanted to make sure that Wes had the proper welcome home that he deserved, and once we knew for sure that he was set to arrive, I got in touch with several of his friends to make sure that he had a greeting party ready for him at the Myrtle Beach Airport.

An outstanding group of friends from Tinder Box Myrtle Beach rallied as well – and we had an impromptu reception at our humble apartment here in Myrtle Beach afterwards.

I am beyond grateful to Stephen Shuessler of CrossFit Myrtle Beach for putting the word out at his box [CrossFit lingo for gym] – and helping to gather a group of Wes’ CrossFit family. It warms my heart to feel the love.

His Uncle Chris [my twin brother and musical accomplice] and Aunt Betsy [my sister-in-law] were there also – as well as Wes’ best friend and de facto brother, Xavier Pringle – and we wore the amazing tee shirts my dear friends Tonya and Kenny [A Plus Screen Printing] made for Wes’ graduation at Parris Island 16 months ago.

Here’s a laundry list of what he was up to:

CrossFit. A half-marathon in his 30-pound flak vest, or Modular Tactical Vest [I guess he did want his MTV]. Multiple trips to Chipotle. A dinner out, looking awesome in his Dress Blue Deltas. A walk on the beach with yours truly and his twin sister. A jaw-dropping new tattoo from the master, Shay Haf-Ded, at Red Raven Art Company.

The young man took the time to catch Yale Brothers gig at Liberty Brewery and Grill in Myrtle Beach. That meant a lot. We dedicated the night to him and he was received enthusiastically.

I had a bet with my girlfriend Brenda as to how long it would take before he and Taylor bickered about something. Answer: Not long – and it was music to my ears. Being a twin myself – I understand the dynamic. The old cliché’ stands: They might bandy about all day – but don’t get it twisted. They have each other’s backs.

My regret is that Taylor’s job required her to be back in The City – and she was only here for a weekend. But she was here, and that was awesome.

My adult children. Who knew?

My main man. My son. My Marine.

Semper fi, son!

 

 

 

 

I officiated my niece’s wedding last month.

Cathy and Pat Altar

Cathy and her now husband Pat had met and dated in high school in the 1980s, and as life happened, the pair went on to their own lives and respective marriages.

They reconnected nearly ten years ago, rekindling the fire that never quite went out between them – and on June 24, they made it legal and tied the knot.

Aside from being flattered and honored that they would have thought of me for such a milestone, I also felt unqualified – to say nothing of the fact that I was not an ordained minister.

But I also knew that I could do this. I officiated a wedding at the last minute here in Myrtle Beach a few years ago, when a minister failed to show up to a friend’s wedding. Thankfully, there was a notary on hand to make the deal official – and I did the best I could to drum up an impromptu ceremony. Nothing like a little pressure – but we all know enough about weddings from movies and TV shows we have seen and other weddings we have attended to know the basic routine of a wedding ceremony.

Cathy and Pat Wedding Group

I said yes immediately, thinking that we could replicate the whole notary-on-hand thing. The problem was this: After a quick search on the Web, I discovered that a notarized wedding is not allowed in North Carolina.

Cathy sent me a link to an outfit that ordained folks online – and it was perfectly legit – only I wasn’t particularly down with the oath I was supposed to take before proceeding. This was something to the effect that marriage was only for a man and a woman and I would have to swear that I agreed with all that – including a decisively fundamentalist doctrine.

Check, please.

It should come as no big surprise that I am for marriage equality – and diversity. Call me what you will, but I believe that if they so desire, any two people who love each other should be entitled to marry and to enjoy all the privileges, benefits and yes – the headaches – of married life.

I also believe in God, but I can live without some of His people.

After a brief search, I was happy to find an organization called American marriage Ministries, which more accurately lined up with my beliefs – and after a simple process, I became an ordained minister.

Some states require that officiants register within the counties in which they are to perform marriage ceremonies, but North Carolina is not one of them – so I was good to go.

The cool thing about my ordination is that I am free to design and perform whatever type of ceremony the couple wants – from uber-religious to secular to quirky – and I am not hamstrung by one set of beliefs.

Cathy and Pat opted for a traditional Christian ceremony with an added feature called a sand ceremony, where the officiant and the couple pour different colors of sand into a vessel, signifying the union in a nice visual and symbolic way. The sand ceremony is an alternative to the better-known unity candle ceremony.

Roger With Cathy and Pat - Wedding

The gathering, at my sister’s home in Denver, North Carolina, was attended by friends and loved ones – all in all a beautiful setting.

Saying yes opens doors and paves the way for sometimes unexpected opportunities. I believe that.

Roger Filling Out Marriage License

I remain honored to have been asked – and happy that I punched another hole in my comfort zone.

I am glad I went to my brother’s house today, because we messed around and got 30 minutes of audio – I guess you would call it priming for our podcast.

My brother, Chris Yale, insists that these are not podcasts, but simply recordings. Not podcasts until we get the proper feeds and platforms in place.

Christian Roger With Signs

So be it – but I am still happy to share this recording – where I start with trying to stump Chris about Echo & The Bunnymen – and segueing into the sad news about the demise of the local Myrtle Beach alt-weekly, The Surge, for which I was a regular contributor – then on to our adult children and how they are faring currently – and then a couple of other items about growing up in LA, which will be regular features.

Music. Covers versus originals. Lovable drunks at gigs. Douches at gigs.

The way Chris pronounces the word “ruin.”

And of course, Chris’ rotisserie chickens, er – his chihuahuas.

In all, a worthwhile effort, I think. Looking forward to this adventure with my twin.

 

 

 

 

Wes and Dad at Swearing-In

I have been cleaning out my old car– a venerable 2003 burgundy Ford Taurus SES, which became by default my son Wesley’s car. It was almost supposed to be a car that he and my daughter Taylor were to share – but fate intervened for Wes when his sister went off to the College of Charleston in 2012.

That old car became symbolic of the passing years. With 215 thousand miles clocked – and at nearly 14 years old, it has certainly served us well. My twins first sat in that car when they were nine.

I always knew I shouldn’t have blinked.

But back to the car.

As I was cleaning it out – taking Wesley’s stuff out of it and eventually vacuuming it – the realization set in that my son made the decision to join the United States Marine Corps.

I wouldn’t be doing any of this if he hadn’t made that decision, without a doubt the ballsiest move he has ever made.

Joining up at 22 gives Wes a slight edge by way of maturity – and the kid is in tip-top physical shape thanks to a rabid commitment to CrossFit Myrtle Beach, which has become a second family to him. The Myrtle Beach Seahawks are also family to him. He played for Myrtle Beach High School and until he shipped off was the assistant strength and conditioning coach there.

Wes Photo Rancier

But a Marine? God a’mighty!

Sometimes in my quiet moments – like just before I doze off, the reality hits – the sheer gravity of his decision takes hold and jars me out of my reverie. “My son is at Parris Island,” I think to myself.

This is a new chapter in his life, and ultimately in mine too.

He’s almost finished with week four of a thirteen-week recruit training program at the place where the water tower is emblazoned with the slogan, “We Make Marines.”

I keep being told by Marines and civilians alike that I won’t believe what I will see at Marine Corps Graduation.

I liked what I saw before in my son. I can only imagine the man I will meet on June 3.

For the record, I love you Wesley!