April 4, 2008

Moon over Yusufiyah - Part 1 (Robert Stokely)

[Ed Note: This post was originally written by Robert in February 2007. For some reason its no longer in the archives and the recent story about the Mike Stokely Foundation has forced me to go looking for it. This version is courtesy of Andi of SpouseBuzz. Thank you.]

Part 1:

For those of you who don't know where Yusufiyah is, it is a small town about 15 miles or so south of Baghdad and is one of the corners of the Triangle of Death.

As I look at the moon tonight, full and radiant, I am reminded once again just how connective the moon can be in our lives.

We all see the same sun, but you can't stare at it very long cause it will burn your eyes and you'll see funny shapes and colors. The stars move around in the sky and hard to see unless you are really out where it is dark. But, the moon - it is soothing and simple to follow, and it doesn't hurt your eyes, although it can do things to the heart.

I had not realized how connective the moon can be until my "boy" SGT Mike Stokely entered the combat zone in Iraq , somewhere around the 25th of May, 2005.

I happen to live out in the country and have a great big wrap around porch, rocking chair and all. In fact, it is the rocking chair Mike so often sat in coming and going to put on or take off his boots for GAARNG drill and shoes for other occasions.

As a worried dad with his oldest son, who was but 23, in a war zone, I often could not sleep and would go out on my porch and sit in that rocking chair and look to the east and try to imagine what Mike was doing. Many such nights, I would see the moon over the trees, and on those bright moonlight nights, it just seemed to be a light that connected me to him in Iraq . You see, Yusufiyah is almost on the same latitude plane as my home in Sharpsburg GA - maybe about a difference of about 25 miles more south and due east, 8 hours away.

Such was the same on August 15, 2005 as I was restless and watched the moon rise in the sky, about 84% waxing full. But that night was more restless than usual and little did I sleep and again, my trip to the rocking chair, looking east. Finally, way over in the early a.m. hours I finally wound up sleeping in Mike's bed in his room at our home. Little did I know that just 8 short hours before, Mike, while on dismounted patrol on a lonely road near Yusufiyah had seen that same moon - and then, in an instant it takes for an IED to explode, he was dead.

I had told Mike about gazing at the moon from the rocking chair, and I told him that when he saw the moon, to know that I would see it just 8 hours later and that I would be thinking of him.

Such it was in the early morning hours of August 16, 2005 I saw the same moon he saw, and I thought of him and I am glad I did and that we at least got to share one last moon together. Even now, 18 moons later, I still gaze at that moon and I think of my boy, near Yusufiyah.

I'll be posting again Sunday Night local Eastern Time - it is a story about something good that is happening Sunday in a family's life and it will thrill and warm your heart. I was honored to be a part of this happening and it was a result of Mike's death that resulted in my even being invited to be a part of this great moment for this family. See you later tonight - don't miss it.

Robert Stokely
proud dad SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 8/16/05 near Yusufiyah Iraq
US Army E Troop 108th CAV 48th BDE GAARNG

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