Two Years After: A Final Goodbye - “A Ride to Remember…” by Robert Stokely
August 30, 2007
On June 23rd I posted a story about the 1st Annual Ride To Remember, that would be held in honor of Sgt. Mike Stokely on August 25th. That ride has come and gone and his father, Robert Stokely wrote this eloquent piece about the anguish his family dealt with as they said good-bye to Mike over 2 years ago, and the ride that was held in his honor and the scholarship memorial to Mike, that was made possible, as a result of this ride. THANK YOU Mr. Stokely and your family for sharing your brave and heroic son with us. You can bet, we’ll never forget your son, Sgt. Mike Stokely. To everyone who participated in this ride to honor and pay respect to Sgt. Mike Stokely…. Thank You!
They made us have to say a final goodbye. They thought they had done a great feat. They thought they had hurt us so bad as to take away our life. They thought they had us down for good.
They hurt us bad. They hurt us worse than we could have ever imagined, or wanted to feel. They made us weep deep tears. They made us miss him so much.
Our family sat graveside grieving for a lost husband, son and brother. Friends wept with us, grief stricken in their own right. Two of his fellow soldiers, both seriously wounded in that same road side bomb explosion refused to be kept bed bound and by sheer will made it to be with us. One barely able to hobble with a cane, who but by the grace of God he would have been in a flag draped casket, his mouth sown shut, bottom gum, bone and teeth knocked out and facing a dozen or more surgeries to give him back an ability to merely chew food in a normal way. The other, crutch bound, foot in a cast, facing more surgery as well. Both thankful to be alive, yet wondering why they were and not him. I didn’t know them at all, but needed no introduction as they sought me out in a mass of people. It was for me, a moment of joy to know that they were alive and I could readily see for myself that my son’s brothers in battle would make it.
The sad melody of TAPS cut deep; the report of a 21 gun salute made me flinch, even feel fear at the prospect of a future without him; the folding of a flag with honor was a final heartbreak, knowing a final moment of goodbye was now at hand, and even though it was time to let him go, I didn’t want to.
It was August 27, 2005, a hot day to say the least, a hard day goes without saying. It seemed at that moment we might not make it. It seemed we didn’t want to. But then, we remembered what he would want and so we did that instead. We held it together, we went forward, heads up, hearts proud, and lives to be lived as fully and happily as possible.
On Saturday, August 25, 2007 - 104 weeks since that final goodbye, the Stokely family gathered with friends and strangers alike for the Mike Stokely Foundation, Inc. 1st Annual “Ride to Remember…” The thunderous roar of 215 motrocycles, 40 plus cars, one tractor-trailer minus the trailer, led by a HUMVEE with patriotic color scheme leading the way and with air support from a Blackhawk helicopter, we sent a message that we were alive and we would not fear his death nor a future without him. Instead, we were going to go forward and in doing so, we would Remember with Honor, a life well lived, well loved, and dearly missed - SGT Mike Stokely, KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah in the Triangle of Death, south of Baghdad. We raised $20,000 net after expenses toward the $25,000 needed to fund the scholarship in Mike’s name at Georgia Military College where he got to attend one year before duty called. The other $5,000 - I’ll drive a truck one night a week after I get off work for the next 50 or so weeks and raise that money and I’ll remember the nights Mike rode with me on such trips and the good time we had doing that.
Mike Stokely didn’t get to come home to finish college, but his footprints are bigger than his boots and his legacy will ensure that others will go to college and a future is well preserved for a better America. More so, a call to action now leads us to continue the ride in future years and use the proceeds to honor each and every one of his other 25 fallen brothers from Georgia’s 48th Brigade with a scholarship in their name and memory. A region has been mobilized. We are committed.
You know, if Mike Stokely had made it home alive, we would have gone on to live ordinary lives without so much as a second thought by those around us, without a thought of how others might go to college.
They would have been better off to have left him, and us, alone. They suffered their cause a great defeat by taking his life. They made us have a reason to stay in the fight, and go on.
DUTY HONOR COUNTRY.
proudly remembering my beloved son
SGT Mike StokelyKIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah
USA E Troop 108 CAV 48th BCT GAARNG