From Gold Star Dad, Robert Stokely, on an anniversary:
August 8, 2005 at 11:30 a.m. I received a call from Mike and we talked for 30 minutes or so. He was due home September 1 for leave and we talked about that, but then the talked turned to how dangerous it was in the Triangle of Death and the near misses he had, including one that day. Mike was killed by a road side bomb a week later and I never got to talk to him again. Each year on August 8 since, at 11:30 I stop what I am doing and I remember that call and what I shared with Mike in those last 30 minutes of conversation.
And I remembered today, August 8 at 11:30 a.m. while I was at the post office mailing one of Mike's best growing up / high school friends, SGT Charles "Chuck" Crowder, a package. When he called a few weeks ago from Afghanistan I asked if there was something I could send him, he said he wanted a white Georgia Bulldog ball cap - he had left his back home. Georgia Bulldog Head Coach Mark Richt autographed two for him. I figured in Afghanistan a white hat doesn't have a great chance of staying white long, so he can keep one put up for a keepsake. I wouldn't know Chuck but for Mike and Mike's death has brought us much closer, and he is not afraid to tell me he loves me. And it is the same with their mutual "best friend" Alden Williams who took the last known picture of Mike when responding to an IED incident, the one which Mike told me about as a near miss during that "last call". Alden called me recently from Afghanistan but I missed his call. I was so mad at myself, but I saved his message, and the ending warms my heart when he said to tell the family hello and I love all of you.
I thought about Justin Oulton, another of Mike's "best friends" (Mike couldn't just be an ordinary friend). They played high school soccer together and later shared an old farmhouse living on their own, dogs included. Justin keeps in regular touch with us and even helped for several weeks with hauling water to keep the new sod I planted on Mike's grave watered last September.
While at the post office I was also mailing out nine scholarship checks from the Mike Stokely Foundation, Inc. which brings to 29 scholarships for graduating high school seniors headed to their first year of college. While they are not full rides, they do carry out the mission of the Mike Stokely Foundation - giving a lot of kids a little help to go a long way in life. I thought about the kids in Yusufiyah who were so happy last year to get school supplies from the Mike Stokely Foundation, and the student at Georgia Military College who was the first recipient of the Mike Stokely Memorial Scholarship endowed by funds raised in the "Ride to Remember...." two years ago, and the one for this coming year. I thought about young children in need who got a book a month this past year to help them get a boost in life with reading skills, and wondered about a group of children whose socio-economic situation was pretty grim and were elated to get a book from the Mike Stokely Foundation for a birthday present (some the only present they got that day). I thought about several hundred inner-city kids who come to an annual Christmas Party called Flight to the North Pole and their gift bags contain a book from the Mike Stokely Foundation. I thought back to 1983 when I first got involved with the Flight to the North Pole and the many times Mike came to help with that annual party, even after he was grown.
I thought about the MilBlog community and friends I have come to know through Mike's death. I thought about all my Soldier's Angels including head Angel, Patti Bader. I thought about all of Mike's former unit, E 108 CAV 48th Brigade GAARNG, many who now continue to serve and are deployed to Afghanistan and a good number of those are with Bravo 2 / 121 INF 48th Brigade GAARNG in Afghanistan. I thought about the opportunity I was given to serve as Co-Chair of Bravo 2 / 121 Family Readiness Group. I thought about how this came about because of Mike. And there are so many other things that Mikes sacrifice has brought my way.
It has been four years since Mike last called me and the last time I heard his voice while he was alive. I remember every word, but I especially remember how re-assuring he was in the calmness of his voice even though he faced great danger in the Triangle of Death. Today, even though I can't actually hear him speak as he did in that last phone call four years ago, I can still hear him through all the things I describe above in the same re-assuring, calm way he sounded that day four years ago. You know, now that I think about it, August 8, 2005 really was not he last time I heard Mike's voice, for he continues to speak through so many blessings in our life, and that of many others. His voice is still calm and re-assuring.
DUTY HONOR COUNTRY
proud dad SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah Iraq
USA E 108 CAV 48th BCT GAARNG