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From Robert Stokely:
Tonight, as we approach midnight EST the Moon over Yusufiyah (as I call it) is full and shining brightly. I am reminded of a midnight a little over three years ago on October 20, 2005. Members of E 108th CAV 48th Brigade Georgia National Guard were patrolling their sector in the "Fiyahs" that formed the northern part of the Triangle of Death - Yusufiyah and Mahmudiyah. One particular patrol near Mahmudiyah suddenly had its night shattered by a violent IED explosion. Chaos reigned for what seemed an eterinity as several sodliers in the Humvee were seriously injured, one hanging upside down his leg torn to shreds along with other injuries as he was pinned in. Fellow soldiers rushed to their aid as Medevacs were called in. It didn't look the good for Elijah Carroll as his fellow soldiers struggled to free him, as other fellow injured soldiers lay on the ground, unit medics working on them.
Soon the thump thump thump sounded nearby as the Medevacs got closer. A landing zone was set up even as Elijah Carroll remained pinned in. Then the unthinkable happened as the Medevac came in - the tail rotor clipped a nearby Humvee worse yet it clipped the fifty caliber machine gun setting off a spray of rounds including toward the men working on Elijah Carroll. Imagine seriously hurt but alive and then watching your Medevac crank into the ground as 50 CAL bullets spray all around you. Chaos just got more chaotic.
Elijah Carrol is still alive having survived two near death battlefield experiences in just a few minutes. Finally loaded on another Medevac, he is on the way for emergency surgery to save his life as his leg is mangled and other injuries add to his pain. Surgeons await him and soon realize saving his life might happen but most likely not his leg, yet they try. Imagine the pain and fear of Elijah's parents getting the "call" and as they rush to be with him, wondering if he will be alive when they get there. Certainly, they wretch with pain just thinking about their dear son, wondering how how bad was he hurting. It must have been bittersweet seeing a mangled son - thankful he is alive, but sickened with hurt at the excruciating pain he is in. Surgery after surgery to get him from one point to the next as Elijah transitioned over the next few days up range finally going to Eisenhower Medical Center Fort Gordon GA. Barring an infection, embolism or some other side effect that often teases hope only to give disaster when one has serious injuries, his parents now have more hope he will make it. But the leg seems a foregone conclusion to be lost. And, if not lost, no hope to ever walk.
However, there is just one unknown constant to many failed to realize. Elijah Carroll didn't see it that way and was determined beyond determination to live, walk and one day run again. Doubtful doctors tell him even if he walked, he would not never run again and that his military career was over. Telling a soldier his career is over is bad enough, much less one who was in a college in an officer commission program. North Georgia Military College, now "properly" known as North Georgia College and State University, turns out good field leaders and officers. Elijah Carroll had a couple years under his belt prior to going to Iraq as a Corporal and CAV Scourt.
Elijah Carroll would not be denied and in the three years from that horrible night I have watched him heal, first in a cast, suffering multiple surgeries for his leg and other injuries including the face and bridge of his nose. Infections nearly did his leg in more than once. But finally the day came he walked, first with crutches, then with a cane. He did so in great pain but that did not stop him from rehab and he did his part and then some. And, in this time, he still had room on his plate for the family of his good friend who did not make it back - SGT Mike Stokely. They were good friends and even before that night Elijah nearly lost his own life, he had already suffered one of the harshest realitiies of war - carrying the body of his dear friend from the battlefield in the Fiyahs to the morgue in Baghdad. Somewhere in all this, besides his physical pain and hurt, there had to be some level of PTSD. Yet Elijah Carroll had his chin up, chest was out, and his heart remained strong, yet soft for his fallen friend's family.
Elijah Carroll proved all the doctors wrong. He kept his leg. He walked and as soon as he could and against medical advice he threw the cane away. He tried running one day and it didn't go well - in fact he fell. But he got up and he ran a little and then a little more. He has spent some time hiking and even repelling. And the latest just a few weeks ago he ran all 26 plus miles of the Atlanta Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot Marathon. Remarkable you think?
Well, it is now after midnight and in a few hours on this Saturday December 13, 2008 CPL Elijah Carroll will be pinned and become a commissioned officer as he graduates from his beloved North Georgia Military College. His military career is far from over as he is only beginning and soon he is off for extensive military training for newly commissioned officers. He does have one regret about this officer training school he will be going to - it may keep him from deploying with his unit as the Georgia National Guard 48th Brigade leaves for Afghanistan next spring / summer. But rest assured that Elijah Carroll will have his day as a leader of good soldiers, and if need be he will lead them in battle.
Such soldiers will be fortunate for they will be led by someone who is battle tested in many ways and whose heart beats in the body of a man who has walked the walk and who already wears a bronze star and purple heart. Parents always dread their children going to war, but the parents whose children are led by Elijah Carroll can rest a little easier knowing their children are under the command of a proven and wise leader who knows his way around a battlefield.
God Bless you Elijah Carroll and thank you for being Mike Stokely's good friend, bearing his body from the battlefield and for standing with his family even as you suffered tremendous physical pain and grief. You fought your way back and I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of you. If I were younger, I'd follow you myself. I know for a fact your dear friend Mike Stokely would follow you.
proud dad SGT Mike Stokely and proud friend CPL (soon 1st LT) Elijah Carroll
both having served as Scouts with E 108 CAV 48th BCT GAARNG IRAQ 2005
(Bumped from 2008-12-13 05:29:43)
I am the mother of 2nd Lt. Elijah Carroll. I greatly appreciate Robert's testimony to the bravery and strength of my son's character. Yes, that day is one in which I hope to never have to experience again, yet that day provided with me much personal growth. It is then that I discovered my own personal strength, the conviction in faith, and the love and support of family and friends. No doubt, not a second of that day went by without my entire thoughts being on Elijah. In fact I still do. I watched as he arrived at Eisenhower in great pain and our homecoming took place in the medical center emergency room and how ridiculous I must have looked when I walked in with a dozen helium filled balloons. The endless, sleepless nights listening to my son crutch his way up and down the hallway was music to my ears. Watching him get up on crutches for the first time and walking reminded me of the feelings that I had when Elijah was a baby walking for the first time. Oh, how the time has passed. Now that baby is a man who stood in front of his family and friends and pledged his loyalty to fight for his country as an officer. A task wrought with pain and hardship and won with determination to not let no man take over his life in the form of violence. My feelings of pride were, and still are, overwhelming as I watched with tears my now grown son accept his degree and finally,finally, winning against the terrorist who sought to stop and destroy him.
My thoughts and prayers continue for Robert Stokely and his family as they continue with their own grief. God Bless them, our great nation, and all of you.
Thank you for this account of another of the remarkable men who serve with our military. For myself, I am the daughter of a WWII batallion commander in Patton's army, and have the honor of having 8 immediate relatives who are current or past members of the Armed Forces. In the last few years, I have wondered if our society is up to the challenges that we face, and there are reasons to think that we have not taught and cherished the virtues that Americans formerly had in abundance. However, when I read of the character of this young man, I am reassured that at least our warrior culture is completely intact. THANK you, and may your Christmas and New Year be blessed.Posted by Laura Gutman at December 18, 2008 08:50 PM
God bless you Lt. Elijah Carroll! Great people indeed do great things, that I believe that is centered in the heart and soul. Determination to me is the result of the inner heart and soul.
I applaud you and wish you well. Indeed this country is blessed to have men and women willing to serve their country in war and in peace.
Our son served his country as a USNA graduate and officer. My wife and I believe that all of our courageous men and women in all of the services are the real heros. God be with all of you.
jensPosted by jens at December 22, 2008 09:07 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(3) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)