Without a doubt, the chance to hear Robert Stokely, father of Sgt. Mike Stokely who was killed in Iraq in Aug.2005, was the most meaningful moment for me of the 2007 Milblog Conference .
With the boyfriend's son in Army Basic Training , certainly it is a thought in the back of our minds (that we try not to talk or think about) that someday we could be facing the news that Robert Stokely received, of the death of your child. Every parent's worst nightmare, and this man is living it. So,when Mr. Stokely got up to speak, I think you could have heard a pin drop. And I know I was not the only one hanging on his every word, nor did there seem to be a dry eye in the room by the end of his eloquent speech.
Here are his words (courtesy of Mary Katharine Ham )
I had a chance later that day to speak briefly with Robert Stokely, who impresses me mightily as a towering man of faith, and very compassionate and caring even in the midst of the most devastating grief a parent could face, and express to him how much it had meant to me to hear his words, and why.
When I told him that, while Our Young Man in Basic Training was not my child, but I have always loved him like one of my own, Mr. Stokely simply said to me,"You don't have to be a biological mother to love a child like one."
Which was yet another reason for me to respect and admire this man. He didn't know me from Adam, but he 'got' the feelings in my heart, and was able to express that in a single sentence.
While I hope and pray that we never have to face what Mr.Stokely has? There is a calmness and sense of peace about him, even in the midst of his grief, that can't help but give someone like me hope and strength. I'm not all that good with words, but the atmosphere around this man just tells you that here is someone who is walking closely with God, and I walked away from my brief conversation with him feeling a deep sense of comfort.
I came home from the conference with a lot of thoughts in my head, and a lot of special moments that I'll be recalling for some time to come.......but I feel like the greatest blessing I received from attending this conference was hearing this father's words, and having the chance to speak with him. Thank you, Robert Stokely.