Good morning, blogosphere! I am awake (kind of) and my fast begins in earnest now. I, along with others, just received this email from Robert Stokely. It is a fitting tribute to start the day -- as I fast in honor of Mike Stokely, and all others KIA in service to our country.
On August 16, 2005, at 0700 hours eastern daylight savings time, a call that changed the life of every member of the Stokely family came to our home in Sharpsburg GA - "Mr. Stokely, this is Major Hulsey; I am here with Chaplin Dicoppo and we need to speak with you urgently but your dog will not let us to the door." I knew the moment I hung the phone up and ran at a fast gait to the door and down the steps, meeting them in the driveway that they were at my home to tell me my "boy" was dead. It was a long day that day, and it has been a long year to say the least. But, today, as I write this email, I want to share with you a special photo of then-Spc. Mike Stokely (promoted to SGT posthumously). The photo most often used is of Mike Stokely before he left for Iraq, and is itself a great icon of his persona. But, this photo I now share is so very special, for it is of Mike Stokely, the Iraq War Veteran and shows the essence and spirit of who Mike Stokely was, even as a soldier in war – big generous eyes that said I’ll look after you, and that ever-famous friendly smile that said I am your friend.
In this picture, Mike Stokely and his squad had just come upon another squad from another unit whose HumVee had been hit by an IED. A medic from Mike's squad - Autry - is working on the wounded soldier while Mike acts as a fixture and holds the wounded man’s IV bag. If you zoom in, you see the actual sweat beads on Mike Stokely’s nose. Notice the bird flying in the background off his right shoulder and the tank and machine gun set up off his left. In the midst of such circumstances, this American Soldier named Mike Stokely simply did what he could to make life a little better in whatever way he could, even if it was to lay down his own gun, stand prone in the open, and hold a wounded soldier’s IV bag elevated so gravity would keep vital fluids flowing into the wounded soldier. All the while, Mike Stokely, as he always did, took it in stride and smiled.In the weeks before this Mike had seen many opportunities for he and his buddies to be seriously injured or killed. They endured harsh living conditions – primitive at best. Yet, the same smiling confidence you see in the attached photo is the same smiling confidence he had all along in Iraq, even till the moment of 0220 hours on 16 Aug 2005 as Mike stood cover flank for his best friend and another soldier checking out a suspicious site on a road they were clearing for convoy traffic. That site, near a village called Mulla Fayyad just two miles west of FOB Richardson, Yusufiyah where 2nd Platoon E Troop 108th CAV 48th Brigade GA NATL GUARD was stationed, turned out to be the location of a very powerful IED that seriously wounded two of Mike’s fellow soldiers, and could have easily killed others, and was the cause of Mike’s fatal wounds.
The insurgency succeeded in killing SGT Mike Stokely in the early morning hours of August 16, 2005, but they absolutely failed in their main objective, which was to kill the spirit of Mike Stokely and his family and thereby cause us to cry out to bring the troops home and to wither into a false sense of security by isolation. As our family approaches the all important moment of 6:20 p.m. Tuesday, August 15 – which is 2:20 a.m. August 16 in Iraq, we stand more united and more committed to the war on terrorism and bringing a civilized peace for democracy to the people of Iraq. ....we will remember Mike Stokely, SGT US Army – husband, son, brother and friend. We will remember what he stood for – Duty, Honor and Country. We will rejoice in his willingness to give his life for his country and the bible verse that is inscribed on his grave marker – John 15:13 – No Greater Love… I will speak these words – “as our first year of grieving comes to an end, let us always remember the mournful sound of TAPS , but let us now answer the call of Reveille and report for duty – a duty to live life fully and happily as a free people. Let the bugle sound Charge! as we honor Mike Stokely by living full and happy lives as possible, for we owe him that much and we can best honor him in so doing that."
Our family is truly blessed to have had Mike Stokely for 23 years. In the year that has gone by since Mike's death, the Stokely family has been on an amazing journey of service as a family who sought to continue supporting the soldier dearest to our hearts after his death in the same manner we supported him as he lived. In return, we have been given an outpouring of support and generosity and seen great honor and tribute paid Mike. We will never forget what has been done for Mike and our family and it must be made known that such outpouring has made us able to endure this hardship of a broken heart. Mike would be embarassed at all the attention, and probably quite put out with me for all that I have written. In his humble, simple view of what he did, he would have said "what's the big deal, so I got killed in Iraq - get over it." He truly would not have seen what he did as a big deal, just as he didn't see it a big deal to stand on a roadway a few days before his own death and hold an IV bag for a wounded soldier. How could a father such as myself possibly deserve such a son? Surely the goodness of God is shown in his kindness by
blessing me with the privilege and honor to be Mike Stokely's dad.
I close by saying this - while others debated, Mike Stokely served. While others continue to debate, we, as a family, stand committed to the service Mike Stokely gave his country and the principles of peace and freedom he found just causes worth dying for. Mike Stokely would do it all over again even knowing the eventual outcome of his own death. Mike Stokely wasn’t a SGT York, or Audie Murhpy. He was just a kid next door who wanted to do his duty, and was willing to die for his country He was loved by his family, friends, and fellow soldiers. He has been sorely missed by all of us. WE will never forget his name, his service, and certainly we will never forget his eyes and smile.
GOD BLESS the United States
Blessed and Proud to be the dad of SGT Mike Stokely
E Troop 108th CAV 48th Brigade GA NATL GUARD US ARMY
KIA by IED near Yusufiyah, south of Baghdad16 Aug 2005 at approximately 2:20 a.m.