Teri Colemon sees her son as the kind of man who was made for the Army.
Pfc. Zachery Fuller, 23, was a "health nut," she said. A Palmetto resident and third-generation soldier, he especially loved the camaraderie of the military.
Fuller, along with seven other U.S. Army soldiers and a West Point cadet, died after a June 2 accident at a storm-swollen creek at Fort Hood, Texas, about 70 miles north of Austin.
A large troop-carrying truck known as a light medium tactical vehicle overturned at Owl Creek, according to a Fort Hood news release. Three soldiers survived after they were rescued from the water, the news release said.
The incident is under investigation, said Tyler Broadway, Fort Hood spokesman, but findings could be anywhere from six months to two years away.
Colemon, 45, also of Palmetto, remembered her son as a uniting force in her family. When her parents moved to the Tampa Bay area a few years ago, her father asked Fuller, his grandson, to move from North Carolina with them.
"My son was just extremely close with his grandfather, so my dad just wanted him with him," she said. Colemon eventually moved down, too, and now works at a clothing store.
Fuller's "mind was always older than his age," she said. Before Fuller began active-duty service in November, he consulted with veterans in his family about whether to join.
"He just felt like he was too old to be living in the house and he needed to go move out and take care of himself," Colemon said. "He already was very responsible, but he felt like it was time to go ahead and move out."
Fuller was a motor transport operator, stationed at Fort Hood since April as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, according to a Fort Hood release.
Just seven months into his service, he was already talking about becoming an officer.
Before joining the military, Fuller channeled his self-discipline into fitness training. He would run every day, Colemon said, and had a love for the pursuit since his days sprinting for the track team at Sanderson High School in Raleigh, N.C.
"That was his thing," she said.
Fitness training along with friendship were the attractions he enjoyed most in the military, Colemon said.
She is mourning the loss of his friendliness.
"When he hugs you, he has this really stiff hug that he does," she said. "He was just wonderful."
Times staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Contact Samuel Howard at (813)-226-3373 or [email protected] Follow @SamuelHHoward.