When I decided to run my mouth for a living, I never imagined the places it would take me.
I’ve been to Dadeville, Valley, LaFayette, all over the world. This past week, I was in Panama City Beach, Florida, where I was invited to speak to a group of wounded warriors and their spouses at the biannual Warrior Beach Retreat.
Warrior Beach Retreat Inc. was established to provide retreats for wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan and their spouses or caregivers. Participants come to Panama City Beach for an all-expenses-paid four-night and five-day retreat. Since I was only entertaining, we stayed four days and three nights, although they asked if we wanted to stay the week. Maybe next time.
Warrior Beach Retreat president Linda Cope founded the nonprofit organization after her son Joshua was severely injured by an IED blast in Baghdad in 2006. Philip, her husband and the organization’s vice president, has ties to east Alabama. He’s from Union Springs and has family in Auburn.
I didn’t know what the accommodations would be like. I thought they might throw us in a nearby slasher motel with salty tap water, for which I would have been grateful. I was super excited when I saw the actual beachfront condo. It was nice. It had a balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, a kitchen, a living room, two bedrooms and two bathrooms with huge tubs. I took a bath the first night there. I hadn’t had a bath in months.
Last summer, we had an overnight trip to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. My gigs are always more fun when I can bring the family along. Emily went on that one but since this one was during the week, it was only Lucy and Abby. The dogs, the chickens, the bees and the cat all stayed home. Maybe next time.
All the meals are taken care of and there are things to do all week long at no cost to the attendees, such as golf and deep-sea fishing for the guys and salon and spa time for the ladies. This was the first time they’d ever had any type of entertainment. My performance went well. I knew it would. These were my people. They’ve already invited back for the fall retreat. How blessed am I?
Although windy and overcast, the beach itself was great as always but the water not so much. Due to a storm and a strong riptide, there was no swimming in the Gulf. There was also no walking on your tiptoes, jumping up and down, trying to keep your swimsuit dry while still being out in the water like I do. That’s OK because the water was still really cold. The bathtub water was much better.
We enjoyed letting sweet Abigail play in the sand, although we’re not quite sure she enjoyed it. She crawls around here on the ground in the grass all the time but she wasn’t quite sure what to think of the sand. We had the basic beach toys that came with the condo but she wasn’t too keen on them. Maybe next time. We know she had fun, though, and so did we.
After leaving the condo Wednesday morning, we drove back down 30A to the same public beach where we had so much fun last summer and had fun once again. The weather was perfect. There was a slight breeze and plenty of sunshine. While we didn’t get in the water past our ankles, we did hold Abby’s hands and walk her along the shore. She was so excited when the water came up to her feet. There’s nothing like seeing your child happy.
Before we packed up to come home, Lucy made us turkey and cheese sandwiches. Beach sandwiches are so good: turkey, cheese, mustard, mayonnaise and sand. They put the sand in sandwich, that’s for sure.
It was a fun few days with the family. It was an honor to be a small part of the Warrior Beach Retreat.
Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com