4,300 Miles Away –Cole

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

My family has always been very tight-knit. We were never bored growing up in a family with six brothers and sisters. We didn’t always get along, but that’s what made it more fun and memorable. My parents always made sure that we had the necessities to live a great life, but they didn’t give us what we wanted all the time. It made me and my siblings upset at the time and usually something like, “I hate you!” Or “You never get me anything!” would come out of our mouths. Obviously that wasn’t a very true statement in the slightest because my parents loved us unconditionally.

My dad was always there for me when I’d have a rough game, no matter if it was baseball, which he knew so much about, or basketball, which he didn’t have the slightest clue about. He was always there to pick me up and get me back in the game mentally. My mom usually was the one who would give me hugs to let me know that no matter how good or bad I did, she was always going to root for me and love me. It wasn’t until the time started counting down till I left for boot camp that I realized how much my family really meant to me and how much I was going to miss them.

Leaving for Navy boot camp was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life. Having to say goodbye to my parents, who did so much for me, was incredibly difficult. Thankfully, though, boot camp was only four hours from my house and only 45 minutes from where my parents grew up. I got to see my parents four out of the eight weekends I was in Great Lakes, Illinois, and that was easily more than any of my friends that I had made there had seen their parents. I was very blessed to have them so close, even if it was the farthest I had been away from home without being with my family.

While I was in A-School, I got my orders to my permanent duty station: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The first thing I did was call my dad and tell him, forgetting the fact that Hawaii is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, far away from the mainland, let alone my home. He was so happy and excited for me, and I was extremely excited, too. Who of my friends from home could say they got to live in Hawaii? Or even visit there? I was going to start another chapter of my journey in the Navy in Hawaii, and at the time, I could not wait.

I graduated A-School on December 15th, 2011. My dad came to watch me graduate, the only parent of my class that was there. We drove home that same day back to my hometown, while the rest of my classmates had to go sit in the airport and wait for their flight home. I loved being home, getting to go to my siblings’ lunch period in school and have a meal with them, getting to see my parents every day; it was amazing. The time for me to leave for Hawaii was looming, though, and I started to get homesick, even though I hadn’t even left yet.

I didn’t want to leave my family behind. I told my dad so many times that I wished he could be able to go with me. I still wish he could have went with me. He never made it out to Hawaii, and it was his dream to come visit me and take a tour of my ship.

On December 29th, 2011, we loaded our Suburban and drove down to Chicago, to O’Hare International Airport, where I’d start my journey to Pearl Harbor. I was so nervous that I forgot all my paper work. I forgot my medical records, my orders, my flight itinerary, everything. My dad was so mad at me, but he got over it because I texted a friend of ours, who happened to be a Naval Officer and asked him what I should do. We were soon waiting by my terminal for my flight to board to Los Angeles. I didn’t want to go, but I didn’t have a choice. When the time came, I hugged all my family and cried and hugged them some more before I boarded the plane.

I hated leaving my family. I hated leaving their love and comfort. When I got to Hawaii, I was so homesick it wasn’t even funny. I was constantly texting my dad, asking what the family was doing, how work was going for him. I told him that I was going to get flown out to meet my ship soon and that I was so nervous because I figured they’d expect me to know everything about my job because I was fresh out of school. That and I didn’t know anybody on my ship, so I was extra nervous.

Eventually, I was flown to Singapore to meet my ship on deployment. All I had for communication was email, super slow internet, and skype whenever we hit port and I found wifi. I missed my family so much, and I started to realize that I took a lot of things for granted, like my little brothers texting me on my mom’s phone while I was in A-School. I would hardly ever text back because I was too busy or was doing something with a friend. On deployment, I longed for those texts from them. I longed to be at home on the couch listening to them argue about the Playstation or something stupid. I told myself that it didn’t matter what was going on, because I’d be home.

After I got back from deployment six months later, the first thing I did was call my dad. Hearing his voice was so exciting and refreshing. I was given two weeks of leave after deployment, and I couldn’t wait to get home. I wanted to surprise my family so I told my parents not to tell any of the siblings that I was coming home. I flew home at the end of June, and my dad, my older sister Dana, and my best friend Jon picked me up from the local airport and took me to surprise my siblings. Thankfully my mom had bought a video camera so she video taped the whole thing. I cried when I surprised them and they cried too, but not for long because soon it turned to laughter.

I loved being home, around my family, regardless if they were arguing or not. I just took it all in because I knew that my time was limited. It wasn’t every time that I cried when I saw my family for the first time after getting home on leave, but always when I was leaving to go back to Hawaii. I hated going back, I hated being away from everyone who I loved. I was 4,300 miles away from my family, my loved ones, and it was hard to get on that plane when it was time for me to go back.

It never got easier, but the times that I had to go back to Pearl Harbor got less and less each time I came home. I couldn’t wait to be out and not have to leave my family or friends or my fiancé. I cherished each and every second I was home with them, and didn’t take anything for granted. I will never take being with my family for granted ever again because I know that there was once a time when I wasn’t able to just walk up to my mom and dad and give them a hug, when I couldn’t have a face-to-face conversation about sports with my little brother.

Even though I’m out of the military and I’m not going to be going anywhere anytime soon, I still tell my mom and dad every night that I love them and I miss them. Whenever I’m home and I’m about to leave to come back to Stevens Point, I give every one of my family members a hug and tell them that I love them, even if I only live 20 minutes down the road or I can text and call them whenever I want. I’ll always remember having to leave the love of my family, and I’ll never take that for granted again.

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