Stokely’s memory kept alive in Iraq

Thu, 04/17/2008 - 2:49pm
By: The Citizen

Students and teachers had looks of joy and bewilderment as soldiers handed out school supplies and toys at the Mullah Fayad School in Yusifiyah, Iraq, March 27.

Children grinned ear-to-ear as they looked over the treasure. When teachers asked who had sent the truckload of goods, they were surprised by the answer. Everything had been donated in the name of Sgt. Michael Stokely, who was killed Aug. 16, 2005 in Mullah Fayad.

Stokely, from Sharpsburg, Ga., served with the 48th Georgia National Guard. After his death, his father began the Mike Stokely Foundation. The organization put together a shipment of school supplies for citizens of the communities where Stokely lived and died. It took an Army five-ton truck to deliver the supplies to the school.

Pittsburgh native Capt. Michael Starz, commander of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), coordinated with Stokely’s father to ensure the donations reached the most destitute people in Mullah Fayad. The unit distributed the school supplies along with a sizable donation from Sgt. Nathan Barnes’ family and community. Barnes, who also died while serving in the area, served with 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

“(Stokely’s) dad is just a tremendous individual. He knew how much his son loved the children in the area that he worked with because his son always sent home pictures of him with kids,” Starz said. “He thought a lasting tribute to his son would be to do something for the children of the area. That’s just remarkable.”

“They donated a lot of stuff,” said Hughes, Ark., native Staff Sgt. James Robinson, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon, Co. C, 3-187th Inf. Regt. “It’s like the packages just wouldn’t stop … I know a lot of kids in the neighborhood appreciated that.”

Teachers received materials as well. Unlike the children, who were happy to get the gifts without asking who they come from, the teachers wanted to know who to thank. They could barely believe their ears when Starz told them.

“They said it’s almost too much to imagine,” Starz said. “All the teachers wanted a copy of Sgt. Stokely’s picture and the foundation’s name so they could frame it and put it up in their school. They say it’s something the Quran teaches – the forgiveness of your enemies. But it’s so hard to do … that it’s never actually seen.”

Changing Iraqis’ opinion about Americans is important to winning in insurgent warfare, said Starz. When people in the states, like the Stokely family, donate materials it positively impact the abilities of ground forces, he said.

“People send us care packages and things like that – and that’s fantastic – but this is directly relating to our ability.” Starz said. “It’s almost the modern Rosie the Riveter. You’re not going to the factories and working, but you’re doing something to enable and provide another tool for the combat Soldier on the ground.”

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