Sunday, January 07, 2007

From the Father of Sgt. Michael Stokely

Jan. 6, 2005, 0500, I pulled out of the driveway at my home in Sharpsburg GA, headed for Griffin GA, accompanied by my son, SPC Mike Stokely. I was driving him to the Armory where he would meet up with approximately 128 other E 108th CAV soldiers for a departure ceremony prior to borading buses bound for FT Stewart GA and five months of deployment train-up. The family followed later for the ceremony at 9:00. At 9:30, we had 30 minutes to visit with Mike and then watched as they formed up and then, my boy marched to board the bus at approximately 10:00 a.m.. A pang of fear struck me - would my boy come home again? Now it was real - the talk was over. I was just weeks from my 52nd birthday and I unashamedly wept in front of others and strained to see him through the bus windows, even as I watched the tail lights of the bus go out of sight. Perhaps, that was the beginnig of my train-up for the grief that was to come seven plus months later, as literally thousands would watch me and our family weep.

Yesterday, Jan. 5, 2007, I delivered two checks to deserving students who needed some help to go to college. Today, Jan. 6, 2007, just after 10:00 a.m., I made a small deposit into an account for the Mike Stokely Foundation Inc. Pocket change from my "change jar" and change thrown in a jar at the register by patrons of a resturant called Catfish Hollow where Mike worked part-time before deployment. $80 total, not that much, but with the other money donated to the Foundation, it will be a big help to others. This Foundation was started on our front porch within a few hours after the news of Mike's death came to our home. As I sat there on the porch, I looked at my wife Retta and asked her if she thought it would be "o.k." to form the Foundation and ask our friends and others to consider a donation in lieu of flowers. Of course, she was for it and we put the word out immediately and many people honored our request, including many strangers.

Since then, others have helped with fundraisers for the Mike Stokely Foundation Inc.. Family and friends remember Mike on his birthday and at Christmas with donations. Corporations who have heard of us have made donations and recently, a friend asked that donations be made to the Mike Stokely Foundation in lieu of sending flowers to her own mother's funeral. Every now and then, a check from a stranger comes, usually no explanation and no connection we can make as to how they came to send a donation.

Five scholarships were awarded last May and it was a very proud moment for this dad to watch a soon to be 14 year old young lady stand tall and speak at two different high school honors programs, where 900 or so were present each time, and talk about her brother and the Mike Stokely Foundation as she awarded the first two scholarships. At Christmas, a check was sent to a school that took it on their own to raise money for the Foundation - a school that was deemed an "at risk" school where most of the kids are well below poverty level. The check will help a program at this school that sends a book to students who might not otherwise even get a birthday present, much less money in the home to buy a book.

Recently, a separate fund drive has been started to endow a scholarship at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville GA in Mike's honor. Mike had completed one year of the two year program and was finalizing enrollment for the second year when he was called up and deployed. We have a great start - 10% of the $25,000 needed has been raised and plans for additional fundraisers are in the works. This project will not encroach on the other on-going projects outlined above, including the high school scholarships.

Today, as I left the bank, I thought of my boy...

What a difference two years can make.

Robert Stokely
proud dad SGT Mike Stokely
KIA IRAQ near Yusufiyah 16 Aug 05
US Army E Troop 108th CAV 48th BDE GAARN


DNR said...

Beutiful story, had me in tears.

God Bless the Stokely family.

Anonymous said...

I love you uncle Robbie. Mike is with us everyday and in many ways he is being honored that you may not know about. I have a couple of his memorial highway magnets up on a cabinet in my office. One of my clients a four year old boy with Autism would always come in and pull one of the magnets off and play with it. After a few minutes I would say "put Mike back on the cabinet and lets get to work". Then one day he came in and instead of pulling the magnet off he simply said "hey Mike" and came in and sat down at the table. It sent shivers up my spine and spread a smile across my face. I felt like Mike was in the room with us. This tradition occurs every Tuesday and Thursday. My client comes in and says Hi Mike... and then suddenly he began to say Bye Mike at the end of the session. At Christmas I simply put one of the magnets in his Christmas goodie bag and explained to his mother what had been going on. She simply smiled and said sometimes I feel like he sees things that we don't. (Not in a creepy way but in a very warm and loving way). With this simple statement I knew she understood and it brought me to tears. Just 2 weeks ago the mom asked if I could come to the home and do therapy. I must have passed the fridge a dozen times and never noticed anything. The next thing I know my client went to the fridge and wanted juice and as he looked up he said "Hi Mike" it took my breathe away because as I looked where he was looking there was Mikes beautiful face looking back. The family had placed the magnet of Mike right there to honor him. So, I just wanted you to know that he is gone but not forgotten. I love you all very much! Angie

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