Lisa Dorman of Wewahitchka is an original Sister.
She was present at the beginning, when the Semper Fi Sisters Beach Blast, consisted of 12 Marine moms and wives on a four-day beach escape from the stresses that come with a loved one deployed to a war zone.
Dorman has been in the middle as the Semper Fi Sisters have grown, not only in participation in the Beach Blast, but also within the expanding network of home front organizations reaching out to troops, a network confined only by the internet.
She has seen that escaped iced by the weekend-ending packing party, when, this year, the Semper Fi Sisters will send 1,000 “Boxes of Love” to troops in war zones.
Dorman has seen the Beach Blast become inclusive not just of Marine moms, wives and grandmothers, but also women with loved ones deployed with the Air Force, Navy, Army and, new this year, the Coast Guard.
So Dorman will be there Oct. 17-20 when the Semper Fi Sisters, now numbering nearly 80, arriving in Gulf County from 23 states, as far west as California, as far north as South Dakota, for the fourth annual Beach Blast.
“From San Francisco to Wewahitchka; it is really phenomenal, it really is,” Dorman said of the growth of the Semper Fi Sisters and their Beach Blast. “Even the Marine Corps is getting up on it. They realize they have to watch out not only for the soldiers, but for the military families too.
“The value of the event is invaluable to the women involved; you just can’t put it into words. Every woman is going to home from this event with names and faces to put with sisters. When you go home from this you know there are people who care.”
The foundation of the Beach Blast is the sisterhood.
As Dorman explained, while there is a special bond between son or daughter and dad, there is a unique umbilical between those offspring and mom.
That bond is at the heart of the Beach Blast because, Dorman said, that “different bond with their children is something only another mother can understand.”
Dorman’s son, Matt, is on his third deployment, his first in Iraq, the last two in Afghanistan. He will turn 25 this month, less than a decade removed from high school and all of it spent in the military, much of it in war zones.
“He’s seen and done things no young man his age should have to,” Dorman said. “He’s done it because he loves his country, he loves the Marines, he loves his job.
“But he also has barely seen his son (now 3). He knows to do his job takes its toll on his family.”
In part, that is where Semper Fi Sisters picks up the rope.
The goal, to be a rock on the home front, to provide support, love and a mix of stoicism in order that their sons, husbands, brothers, grandsons, can do their jobs.
The task gets no easier with additional deployments, Dorman said. Being a veteran Sister is no easier than a “newbie.”
“In a way, yes, it is easier because we know what is coming, but no, it is also worse because you know what to expect,” Dorman said. “It’s a roller coaster. But Semper Fi Sisters is like a sorority without any of the pettiness. We are looking out for each other. We are looking out for the ones coming up.
“My son has brothers who are watching his back; I have sisters looking out for my back.”
Those Sisters will convene later this month to laugh a bit, cry a bit, eat a lot and just relax, attempt to get away, to enjoy the beach.
There will be an educational element, also, with mini-sessions addressing and dealing with the maze that is the military as well as issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Sisters will hold a blood drive at WindMark Beach, their headquarters for the weekend.
They will put the finishing touches on the event on Saturday when they gather to pack 1,000 boxes, names and addresses of deployed soldiers supplied by Soldier’s Angels, a volunteer-operated clearinghouse of outreach to deployed troops which has assisted Semper Fi Sisters the past three years.
And these Sisters will be putting faces and voices and in some cases antics to names and handles on the internet, tightening the ties that bind them as war binds their loved ones.
“The community can have pride in knowing they are opening their arms to us and in doing so they are honoring our soldiers and they are honoring us, too,” Dorman said. “With all the selfishness out there today, these young people volunteer to serve their country. It is amazing.”
If you would like to donate an item or money for shipping to the Semper Fi Sisters’ effort to pack 1,000 “Boxes of Love” to troops overseas, please visit www.semperfisisters.com.