SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Time to check in with StoryCorps and another chapter from the Military Voices Initiative, honoring veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also their families.

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SIMON: On this Father's Day weekend, we bring you the story of one dad's journey. Robert Stokely's son, Mike, served in the Georgia Army National Guard and deployed to Iraq in 2005. Robert came to StoryCorps to talk about waiting for his son's deployment to end.

ROBERT STOKELY: While he was in Iraq, at night I couldn't sleep. I used to look at the moon a lot, and I told Mike when you see the moon, know that eight hours later I'll see it too, and I'll think about you. August 8, 2005, he called me. I remember telling him are you still coming home in two weeks? I can't take this anymore. He said I love you and I'll see you soon. And those were the last words I heard from him.

Mike was struck by a roadside bomb and died there on the side of the road. I felt guilty I wasn't there to hold him when he died and comfort him. I felt guilty I wasn't able to protect him. So, I just had to go there and see what this place looked like. I just wanted to see where my son died. And I couldn't live if I didn't go. Our security team picked us up in Amman, Jordan and we flew into Baghdad the next day. That night, we stayed at a safe-house. I sat on the roof for hours, and I just looked at the moon overhead. I thought I am 16 miles away. I am so close.

I had an engraved piece of marble that weighed about 45 pounds. I just wanted to set it beside the road where my son breathed his last breath. And the next morning, we got up very early and we cleared four Iraqi army checkpoints. And we got to the fifth one, and it was just so dangerous they wouldn't let us through, and they turned us back. So, we were unable to get there. I wanted to kneel where Mike fell and touch that spot. I didn't get to do that. Maybe God had a reason why I didn't go that last mile and a half, but I did get to ride some of the same roads Mike rode. So, rather than feeling sorry that I didn't get there, I'm going to be happy that I got that close. I got close enough.

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SIMON: Robert Stokely, remembering his 2011 journey to Iraq to visit the place where his son, Sergeant Michael Stokely, was killed. His story was recorded in Atlanta as part of the Military Voices Initiative. Like all StoryCorps interviews, it is archived at the Library of Congress. You can download the StoryCorps podcast at npr.org.

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SIMON: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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