- Written by father, Robert Eugene Stokely to an uknown recipient:
I came across your blog this morning, and thought I'd share my thoughts as the dad of an American Soldier killed in action four months ago. My son was standing cover flank for two buddies checking out a suspicous location in the roadway while on patrol at 2:20 A.M. 16 Aug when an IED exploded. He was the only one killed. Two soldiers suffered serious injuries and are now home on permanent medical leave, but both will live normal lives after they finish med rehab and surgery.
Life is hard when you lose a child; you have children and you think of them burying you and not the other way around. But war brings a new perspective to the parent child relationship, for the parent is put in a position that they are unable to fulfill a basic parental instinct - protect your child. Losing a child, especially in war and especially with media attention focused on your loss, is difficult. I find myself counting time in weeks - every Monday at 6:20 p.m., I silently remember, maybe with a tear, that X weeks ago Mike died at what was 2:20 a.m. his time on Tuesday; then as the evening goes on, I think, Mike was dead X hours at this time; I then awake on what is my Tuesday mornng, and at 7:00 a.m., I remember the call to my home and the voice saying "Mr. Stokely, this is Maj. Hulsey - please come to the door, you dog won't let us up the driveway and we need to speak to you" and then remembering my fast gait to the driveway and asking, before they can say anything "is my boy dead" and the the words they spoke, with humble sadness in the eyes of Maj. Hulsey and the Chaplin that was with him "we regret to inform you...." But the pain,while there, is more manageable. I think it must be like the rigors and harshness of war - it is always the same, you just adjust.
No pity for me is needed, for as a friend said to me, I am lucky to have a son who has brought such honor to his father and the entire family. My son was a man who had a heart that cared deeply for others, and they likewise cared for him. In all of this, so many stories of his simple kindness have been shared with us and touched us. My favorite is the one where he and his buddies had been on continuous duty for several days (their normal day was 22 hours long). He and one of his fellow soldiers had to pull guard duty after being on missions for that continuous period without any sleep. He told his buddy to take a nap and he would stand watch and then they would swap out. For the next six hours, he let his buddy sleep while he stood the whole watch.
We miss him so much. We hurt inside. But we burst with pride in our son and brother. His memory will not fade nor will our love for him. When Mike was just becoming a teenager, I tried to imagine what he would be one day. I often told people I wasn't sure where life would take him, but I knew he would do something different and be very well known in his chosen field. I never dreamed he would become an American Hero who would serve his country so well.
For whatever reason, the last few days what Cindy Sheehan said "Casey didn't die for a just cause" has been on my mind. Maybe it is because some people have felt comfortable enough four months out to ask me how I felt about Mike's death and whether I thought the cause was "just" enough to justify his sacrifice.
My response is that Mike didn't die for a "just cause", he died JUST BECAUSE - just because he loved his country enough to want to serve it since the time he was in middle school; just because he loved his family enough to want to protect them; just because he loved his friends enough that he would rather fight a war "there" than here; just because he believed in our order of government whereby the civilian government rules and the military obeys, and when the President, with lawful authority, calls upon soldiers to go and fight, he believed it was not only his duty, but his honor to go; just because he wouldn't let his fellow soldiers - his guys - go it alone; and just because he wanted to do for others - the Iraqi people - what he would do for his own country.
A good friend of our family, Charles Carmical, wrote these words in tribute to Mike - “Would I lay down my life for a country to defend? I willing would if it housed my family and friends."
Mike Stokely didn't die for a just cause, he died for a lot of just causes, including the ones I set out above. I wish I were fit to tie his shoe laces but I am fortunate enough to have a son who believed in God, family, duty, honor and country and who certainly turned out to be the better of the two of us.
Robert Stokely, Lucky and Proud to be the Dad of
SGT Michael "Mike" James Stokely, KIA Operation Iraqi Freedom 16 Aug 05
2nd Platoon, E Troop 108th CAV 48h Brigaded GA NATL GUARD
15 miles south of Baghdad near Yusufiyah / IED