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In September, my son will marry a young lady I can’t wait to claim as my daughter-in-law.

Earlier this year, we reserved the Historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot for the rehearsal dinner.

But the COVID-19 situation threw the proverbial spanner in the works.

Things to do with the rehearsal dinner have been modified. With our group, I figured the venue was more than big enough for social distancing.

We plan on having food catered in, along with beverages…

I just got word that the maximum attendance has been reduced, which would mean slashing attendees to the bare minimum – to include only the wedding party, parents and key family members.

If we don’t do this, we’ll have to consider other options for this event.

Thing is, nobody knows what’s coming down the pike as far as COVID-19 in September. For all we know, the city (Myrtle Beach) could shut down again – or things could improve. If things get worse, this means that restaurants could close – or at the very least, they might also adopt maximum capacity guidelines. They might be forced to go back to curbside service, which opens up another Pandora’s box: Could caterers be shut down?

Such is the uncertain nature of our world at the moment.

My guy at the Train Depot has canceled events for a good chunk of September – but each of those parties expected 100 or more people to attend. He has held off on canceling us outright but will likely be forced to do so if we stay at our projected attendance.

The son of dear friends got married in Pittsburgh in April. We watched the livestream. Empty church except for essential people. I am not sure what they did about the rehearsal and other related pre-wedding parties or the reception – but I can bet that they didn’t see this coming when they set the date.

My son served in the US Marine Corps. There is a saying he taught me: “Semper Gumby…”

Semper Gumby Marine Corps Icon

… “always flexible.”

Well paint me orange and call me Pokey. I had better start stretching – and stop overthinking.

NOTE: I wrote this post on July 23. As of July 24 – we are moving all rehearsal dinner festivities to an outdoor location perfectly suitable for the event, thank God. It was the perfect solution – and one we wouldn’t have thought about until the bride-to-be messaged us about the possibility.

Gratitude. Cleansing breaths…

And since there are no coincidences, I read an article today in Success Magazine that featured an Icelandic saying – and by God I needed to see that:

Þetta reddast… everything is going to work out, or something like that.

Photo credit: India Audus / Iceland Will Make You Happy

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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!

 

 

 

 

My son graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on June 3.

wes-usmc-portrait

Wesley became a United States Marine a week before marching across the Peatross Parade Deck on the island – to the delight of the friends and family members who made the trip to experience that transformative moment in his life and an unbelievably emotional moment for his father.

He completed a grueling event called the Crucible, effectively ending his time as a recruit when he earned his EGA, or Eagle, Globe and Anchor – an emblem presented to newly minted Marines immediately following the event.

ega-emblem

Photo credit: http://www.mcrdpi.marines.mi

The Crucible is no joke. It is 54 hours of food and sleep-deprived physical and mental challenges bordering on the surreal, including 45 miles of marching and simulated battles – and is in fact the culmination of the most intense recruit training of any branch of the American military.

Wesley told me that the Crucible was the most fun he ever had.

What fresh hell! Who says that? Is he kidding me?

His reasoning was that his CrossFit training over the years at CrossFit Myrtle Beach put him in excellent shape, and that he welcomed the Crucible with open arms – a testimony to his mental and physical readiness.

And now, just like that it seems, my young man is a Marine.

The next step for Wes was SOI – or School of Infantry. In his case, this encompassed Infantry Training Battalion.

The official Marine Corps  website, http://www.marines.com, sums up this second-stage school much better than my puny civilian brain can hope to:

“Infantry Training Battalion (ITB) is a 59-day course. The mission is to train, mentor and evaluate Infantry Marines in specific entry-level tasks under the leadership of Combat Instructors. Marines are instructed in marksmanship, patrolling, grenade usage, identifying and countering improvised explosive devices and land navigation, among other various infantry skills. In doing so, the Infantry Training Battalion provides the Corps with Marines who are fully prepared for service in the operating forces.”

Mind blowing stuff.

After a scaled-down but no less impressive graduation ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station New River, where Camp Geiger is located and where he participated in SOI, Wesley was unceremoniously shipped off to his next school. We had less than an hour to hang with him.

Wes and Dad at Geiger.jpg

But I relished every second with him – and even took footage of the bus as it left. I am nothing if not dramatic.

For most of the other 03 infantry “grunts,” as they are affectionately called, Geiger was the last school before taking up their positions in the operating forces.

Wesley is finishing up his final school for now in Chesapeake, Virginia – in line with his MOS – or Military Occupational Specialty.

At this point, I have no clue where he will be going after this. He won’t know for another week or so.

I couldn’t be more proud.

Or more terrified.

wes-dad-pi

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!