Saturday, June 16, 2007

Thoughts on Father's Day from a Gold Star Father...

From Robert Stokely (have a few dozen tissues handy):

Since the moment of the news coming to my door of Mike's death 8/16/05 I have tried to put it in perspective of Romans 8:28, well, actually, let me say it more correctly: I have claimed the promise of Romans 8:28.

There is a song playing on country music radio and on Christian radio by country music star, Faith Hill. I can't even tell you the name of it (not unusual, I listen, but name of songs aren't important to me, just what the music and words say). But this one simple verse says it all, and I don't know if Faith Hill intended to do so, but I think it ties very well to the promise of Romans 8:28. "God is great, but sometimes life isn't so good..."

God is great, and even when life isn't so good, we need to go on and we need to remember who our creator is and that he is in control and he does have a plan even if man is not always doing the plan by God's will and design, God will remain in control and will bring good from that for his children. WOW, sounds like everything will be alright in the end, right? Well maybe not in our day and life, but in the end, it will.

Today, Saturday June 16 is the 22nd month since Mike died from the road side bomb near Yusufiyah in the Triangle of Death. Today is also 104 weeks since he sent me a perfectly timed Father's Day card from such a terrible place, and it arrived in the Saturday noon mail and warmed my heart. How could a son, with so much struggle before him, living in a place that was a Potato Factory where in what few hours they slept, they had to fight off rats; where their toilet consisted of a five gallon bucket, diesel fuel and a match; where the best meal of the day was the canned goods they received in care packages from home that made it through the dangerous roads to their Forward Operating Base; where they were subject to continual RPGs, sniper fire, mortars, and the ever lurking IEDs; where he witnessed death and destruction, with too many near misses in the few weeks before he died; where he missed his wife of just two months, and never mind the terrible heat and dust with constant sand storms - how could he have time to think of me and worry about sending me a card. That card is in a drawer I open every day and look at, for that card is a written testament of a son's love for his dad, and more than that, it is a testament that he would not let his circumstances take control.

Today is also the day 104 weeks ago that Mike called from Iraq and it went to voice mail because of the signal strength in the area where I was at with my cell phone. I didn't erase it - don't ask why, just said "aw, I'll do that later and clicked past it." For the next 50 plus dayswhen I listened to it with other messages, I did the same thing - no reason why, just said, "aw, I'll erase it later." Then, in the days before Mike was killed, I heard that small still voice, the same voice say "save it." I did, and it is the only recording of Mike's voice that I have, and I can now hear him say,as he always did when leaving or hanging up "love you dad." Not a day goes by that I don't play that message, and because it is in a Verizon data bank somewhere in the world, only a *86 dial on my cell phone away, I guess they have me as a cell customer for life (although I do have it downloaded to CD and put away safely).

And, I will always have the memory of him making a second effort, as hard as it was to get a phone line out where he was at, to call me again that Saturday of Father's Day Weekend, and we connected and talked and then, when it was time for him to go, he said "love you dad."

God is great, but sometimes life isn't so good; but you know, life is always good, for we were given our life by a great God. Think a moment - what if God had not given us life to begin with? Is it not a great God who blesses us with life, even when it isn't so good? For me, the answer is without equivocation, for I remember on this Father's Day that I was given children named Mike, Wes and Abbey Stokely, only because God first gave me life. And on this 25th Father's Day for me, I will celebrate with the goodness and blessing of the memory of Mike, and the continued joy and on-going life experiences of Wes, now 19 and Abbey, now 15. There are trials to come, but even then, as now, God is great.

Romans 8:28 is a promise in which hope become reality, and we only need claim the promise. In claiming that promise though, we must accept that God is great even when life "isn't so good."

God Bless you and thank you for your friendship.

Robert Stokely
proudly remembering SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 Aug 05 near Yusufiyah in the Triangle of Death south of Baghdad
US Army E Troop 108 CAV 48 BCT GAARNG


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