Each year, for each group of warriors who travel to Gulf County, the Forgotten Coast Warrior Weekend provides a unique bonding experience.

Each year, for each group of warriors who travel to Gulf County, the Forgotten Coast Warrior Weekend provides a unique bonding experience.

And, this year, you could say the community, or least a significant segment, bonded as well, with the warriors, and, one could argue, together.

The bonding among warriors hovers over circumstances, over impacts, physical, mental, emotional, from the battlefront, taking an opportunity hit pause and relax and bond with folks traveling on similar tracks in life.

It is no wonder when the four days are over, the threads sewed over that weekend remain long after the beach is in the rearview mirror.

They may arrive from different parts of the country, Indiana, South Carolina, Georgia, but they leave as one, as the Forgotten Coast Warrior Weekend Class of 2017.

Just as they did not forget their brothers and sisters of the battlefield, they will never forget their brothers and sisters of the FCWW.

“That’s what these events are like. Each one of these events the guys and gals leave here feeling like they are part of a family. Scroll through the groups that have come each year, I guarantee you they are still in touch with each other,”

said Marine Gunnery Sgt. (Ret.) Glen Silva, a mainstay of prior Warrior Weekends as attendee and liaison/counselor.

Well, toss a wedding into the mix, and that connection becomes almost hermetically sealed.

That sure seemed the case on Saturday as a warrior and his caregiver, together for seven years, finally had the chance to say “I do.”

They had tried to marry several times only to have life intervene, said Brenda Garth of the Warrior Weekend organizing committee, who, naturally, suggested a beach wedding upon hearing their story.

Why not?

And, here is where a community stepped up.

The couple, soon-to-be Chris and Katie Chatwin, headed off to the Gulf County Courthouse to secure their marriage license.

But the license was only the ball that started the roll.

Katie shopped at Anchored South and purchased the first dress she saw as a wedding dress and picked up a reception dress at The Fuss.

Polished Nail Boutique did her nails and Anchored South a nice spray tan for a beach wedding.

Chris’ wedding band was provided compliments of Marie Stephens at Emerald Coast Jewelry/About Beach.

Duren’s Piggly Wiggly, and those employees are something, Garth said, crafted a three-tier wedding cake and a “special retired Marine” provided champagne.

Is this wedding shaping up or what?

Not done.

Debbie Hooper at JoeBay Photography donated the photos and former Port St. Joe city manager Lee Vincent, a retired Navy Captain and Notary Public who frequently attends FCWW, performed the service.

Music was compliments of musical Renaissance woman Ann Comforter and the weding march performed by Jim Garth, who also escorted the bride down the aisle.

Flowers were provided by Flowers by Doran and Dawn and Charles Shockley donated the Matron of Honor’s flowers.

Bill and Sandie Kennedy at The Port Cottages offered up a honeymoon cottage and the rice, well, that was birdseed from George and Hilda Duren with Buck and Pam Watford chipping in the sparklers.

The best man was FCWW attendee Sylvester Goode and his wife, Samantha, was the matron of honor.

The groomsmen, all veteran warriors, received a wedding gift of an engraved oar donated by Bluewater Outriggers and engraved by Chuck and Brenda Griffies.

Brenda Griffies also donated custom hand-made frames with local shells to the veterans’ wives.

To round it all together, Semper Fi Sisters, founded in Gulf County, donated the guest book, serving pieces, champagne flutes, and cookies.

The warriors set up all the tables and chairs and then formed two lines as entrance for Katie.

“It is moments like this that I’m so proud to be a resident of this community,” Brenda Garth said. “So many people stepped up to support the annual Forgotten Coast Warrior Weekend event, but those that helped with his impromptu wedding made me so proud.”

A wedding that was sweet icing to a weekend that included a welcoming parade through Port St. Joe to a banquet at the Centennial Building, kayaking on St. Joseph Bay, fishing in Mexico Beach and nightly bonfires, among other activities.

Some of the warriors even took in, gratis, last week’s “Thursdays at the Theatre” concert at the Port Theatre.

“There was wonderful bonding with all the warriors this weekend,” Hooper said. “It has been an eye-opening weekend … It is hard to explain, but after three days these warriors became lifelong friends. What an experience.”

Surely echoed by each and every one of the warriors and their caregivers.