I am going to apologize up front for my horrible video skills, and then beg you to watch my short video of Family Day at Fort Jackson. I tear up every time that music comes on. I cannot find the words to express how powerful it was to sit in the stands, watch the smoke grenades go off, and see those troops come marching through. It was phenomenal.

For a better, full, video you can see the official on the Fort Jackson Facebook page.

My Cole, my baby, graduated boot camp last week. He is now an US Army Soldier. I am struggling to find the words today. I am proud. I really, really am. But I am sitting here in my quiet house, Tess is still sleeping upstairs, Dave is juggling bills in the living room, and Dane has a headset on & playing Fortnite. Our extra, Nestor, is already hard at work. What I’m missing is Cole.

I can feel the emptiness he left behind. There is a hole everywhere I turn. I miss being grabbed and hugged. I miss the clatter in the kitchen as he makes a snack. And another snack. And another. I miss the thunder on the stairs. I miss our late night talks. I just miss him damn it.

It does not get easier when the fourth one moves out. It is not something you get good at with practice. My heart just hurts. It hurts worse now after spending five whole days with my boy. They say boot camp changes them, but he’s still my Cole. While I really do want him to grow up and be his own person; I would be perfectly okay with him doing that at home.

He misses me too. Probably more than he expected. It is a huge change to move from mom & dad’s in rural Germany to a bustling army base in America. He had a lot of freedom here. A car. Beer. Fests every weekend. A mom that loves cooking. A mom that will break down and do your laundry if you leave it in the machine (or mix it in with all the rest). Roadtrips. Rat babies & a cat. A brother, sister, and a roommate that slept in another room.

He has struggled with the culture shock. Nine years in Germany, and lots of travel to lots of countries, has opened his mind to other ways of thinking, being, doing. In many ways he’s older than his years. Physically he’s also older than most of his trainees. It’s created a gap that he’s working to bridge. It also makes him miss us more. Maybe it’s also made him appreciate us more.

On family day I proudly filmed, and photographed, Charlie company coming out of the smoke. I cheered. Teared up. And tried desperately to find my Cole in the sea of camouflage. After the national athem, speeches, and a prayer the trainees were released to their families… with the caveat that they could not move or speak, until we found them.

Initially my parents told me to just wait, to just stand, to rest my poor tired, swollen ankle. They went over to Charlie company and tried to find Cole. All around us people found their soldier. There were hugs, cries of joy, tears. And then us. Not finding our Cole. As the ranks thinned out, it became apparent that our soldier, our Cole, was not in Charlie company.

I finally dug out my phone, looked up his address, the address I’d sent so many letters to and saw, in black & white, that Cole was in Alpha company. In my defense, Dave supports Charlie company over here (different regiment & battalion, of course) and Nick is in Charlie company as well (yet another regiment & battalion). I wasn’t completely wrong, I just had the wrong soldier.

We raced over to Alpha company, albeit slow racing. Like snails. I move very slowly still. Cole was standing at attention, gaze straight ahead, unable to call out his location. The ranks around him were significantly thinned, very few soldiers were still standing in formation. Most had reunited with family.

I reunited with Cole. I threw my arms around him, so much skinnier than the last time I hugged him, muffled my sobs in his elbows (he’s so much taller than me) and just loved him.

Out of the smoke came the five graduating platoons: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Echo & Delta

Charlie Company

My dad finally found us. Found Cole!

Oma (my mom, Annelies) & Cole touring Fort Jackson

Cole: photo by Soren

This is how I look to my family.

Soren giving me a taste of my own medicine.

A photo just for Dave in front on his favorite helicopter… UH-1 or “Huey”

It was raining & the graduation ceremony was moved indoors. So impressive to see the companies march in!

In formation after graduation. We cannot hug till they are officially released back at their companies.

No hugging does not equal no pictures. My mom & Cole (see him?)

We are lost on Fort Jackson. Who better to ask for directions than Cole’s Drill Instructor?

Two completely different paths. Two amazing sons. One very proud mom.

Waiting for Cole… little did they know! My mom, Lindsay & Cole

All his worldly possessions in two green duffels (plus a full basement at mom’s house).

He is a soldier.