Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Moon over Yusuifyah

Robert Stokely wrote, what by far is the single most moving letter I've ever read. Robert epitomizes the best of us, he is why I fight, he is the America I believe in and serve. All that follows are his words:

Saturday was a first for me, visiting the Malogne House at Walter Reed. While I have seen some of the PTSD, TBI and other serious wounds of soldiers from Mike's unit, I had not had the up close personal experience with the horrors of war that comes with damage to limbs and eyes and serious disfigurement as I saw at WRMC last Saturday. A stiff reminder of a different cost of war and the price of freedom. But, what an experience to be there and visit with these fine military personnel whose bravery is only matched by their courage in recovery. I was struck by these personnel, some with no legs or seriously injured arms, who didn't want to be too much trouble getting the lunch that Soldier's Angels provided. As I offered to help this was a typical response - "thank you sir for offering to help but where is your plate and I wouldn't want to hold you up from eating..." Pride in these military personnel is an understatement when I see such spirit and caring toward a fully able bodied civilian like me when they have suffered so much for our family's freedom and they have every excuse to only care about themselves. Honestly, I was a little nervous to go, but I am so glad I went and I want to go back and be with them again soon and serve them as a simple sign of what they gave me on Saturday and what they give us all each and every day - a gift of themselves. It made me appreciate all the more what Chuck Z. endured and continues, with his lovely wife, to endure for our freedom in the service of America.

It is early Tuesday morning, Nov. 11 - Veteran's Day 2008. As I write this I have just come through a period of time at 0220 that I was up and wondering the house and now, in Mike's room. I have just come in from outside from gazing at the moon. Ironically, the moon is in the same phase it was in as I gazed at it this same hour 169 weeks ago, not knowing that my boy, Mike was dead from a road side bomb near Yusufiyah south of Baghdad at 0220 Iraq time. 169 weeks ago at this time I prayed for his safety not knowing a visit from a Commissioned Officer and Chaplin was just a little over four hours away at 0700 August 16, 2005. 169 weeks later, on this Veterans Day I prayed again - thanking God for the privilege of being Mike Stokely's dad, for him being a part of our family and I selfishly asked God to give him back if he would, knowing God could if it were his Will to do so. But I also prayed that we as a family would submit and honor God's Will and to please tell Mike how much we loved him. One day, I will see my boy again, and as I do everyday, I listen to his voice mail message on my cell phone that I saved by the Grace of God - Father's Day weekend call from Iraq, 2005. As I listen to that message, I am reminded of the sound of his voice and I never want to forget his voice. You see, my faith says I will see him again one day when I die and we meet in Heaven. I figure he will see me coming long before I can spot him and I know he will call out to me "Dad, Dad - here I am...." and I will know his voice and I will run to him.

Tonight, the Moon over Yusuifyah, as I call it, reminded me again of what I have lost, but more importantly, it reminded me of what I was blessed to have. I am, when it is all said and done, a man greatly blessed by God.

I hope one day before I die to stand where my boy once stood and gaze at the Moon over Yusufiyah and see it as he saw. And when the sun rises, I want to go into the village of Muhlafayed just a few kilometers away, and then to the nearby town of Yusufiyah where his FOB was and visit with school children and bring them school supplies from the Mike Stokely Foundation, Inc. As Mike went to Iraq to give them a hope of freedom, I want to go with school supplies to help the Iraqi children go beyond a hope for freedom to a hope for a better life through education. I want them to know that the service of Mike Stokely did not die at 0220 hours 16 August 2005 on that lonely road outside Muhlafayed neary Yusufiyah, but that in his death, he continues to serve them and that they are not forgotten or foresaken. I am not Mike Stokely and I could never fill his shoes for I am not even fit to tie his shoe laces. I could never endure Mike's hardship nor is any sacrifice I make able to match what he has given. But, if given the chance, I will do my best to be his legs and carry on with the Mission.

I didn't get to make the choice whether Mike lived or died 169 weeks ago. I do get the choice on how I will handle it - blame in bitterness or REMEMBER WITH HONOR. May I never give any person reason to question that I made a choice to handle Mike's death by Remembering Him with Honor - a choice I made in the first instant of learning of his death and I will strive to uphold until the day I die. It is little enough I can do given what Mike has done.

Thank you for your kindness to Mike and our Family these last three years. I shall never forget what you have done, especially for me.


Robert Stokely
proud dad - lucky dad of SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah south of Baghdad

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