ROSEVILLE, CA, USA U.S. Marines CPL, H&S CO, 3D BN, 1ST MAR, 1ST MAR DIV, CAMP PENDLETON, CA TAQQADUM, IRAQ 07/30/2007
In a November 2006 HUMAN EVENTS article titled “Remember the Heroes of Fallujah” by James C. Roberts, the author interviewed Corporal Sean Stokes. As I came across Stokes picture and read his story my eyes welled up with tears, and my throat began to tighten. I didn’t know Corporal Sean Stokes but something about his words, and Roberts’ account, reached out to me.
“On November 17, the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment was moving systematically through Fallujah, clearing houses. Private Sean Stokes was point man for his platoon, which meant that on this day he was the man to kick in the door and enter the houses first” wrote Roberts.
“At each house I said a prayer,” Stokes says. “Please God get me out of this one. When I come out of the house, I thank him, light up a cigarette and move on to the next one.”
The more I thought about Sean Stokes, the more I knew I needed to tell his story. Looking for more information on Stokes’ life and service in the Marine Corps, I came across articles and blog entries from family members, friends, and even strangers whose lives Sean touched. Jeff Sommers, a Marine who served with Stokes, wrote about the trials and tribulations Stokes faced while in the Marines and his perseverance and passion for being a Marine that pushed him forward. He told the tale of Stokes’ heroic actions in Fallujah and also why Stokes went on a 3rd tour to Iraq. Sommers wrote:
“As he neared his end of service date, he began approaching me, wondering what he could do to deploy again. I told him that he didn’t need to deploy again, he’d earned the rank no one told him he could, fought in the biggest battle in decades, and had a good life waiting for him. He persisted, and with only weeks to go, told me that if we deployed and something happened he wouldn’t feel right being back home. I know it would eat him up for the rest of his life if he felt he was leaving anything unfinished.”
“The last time I saw him I asked how he was doing. He was happy, the element was led by Sergeant Adams, one of his friends from the Fallujah platoon, they were in the same squad together back then in 2004. He liked working with him, and was exactly where he wanted to be if we deployed — back in a place for him to lead Marines and guide them through a fight if it happened.
A book written about Operation Phantom Fury called “We Were One: Shoulder to Shoulder With the Marines Who Took Fallujah” by Patrick O’Donnell focuses on Stokes a great deal throughout the book. O’Donnell was kind enough to talk to me about Stokes’ story.
“I consider myself a friend of his and I’m a big, big supporter of Sean. This has really hit me hard. I can almost feel him in the room. I can almost touch him right now. But he’s gone. He’s really one of the noblest people I’ve ever met. I saw his courage first hand. He was clearly one of the most courageous Marines in 1st platoon. He killed nine guys single-handedly. He was combat wounded two or three times and he hid his wounds so he wouldn’t be evacuated…so he could stay and fight with his brothers.”
O’Donnell expressed to me his concern that the military had not yet honored Stokes with a Bronze Star for his actions in Fallujah and that he was even missing some Purple Hearts. In his last conversation with Stokes via email he told me Stokes said, “My medal is living.”
I asked O’Donnell if there was anything that he wanted to make sure that people knew about Sean, he said “That he was the most noble person I’ve met in my life…extremely courageous…selfless…and he had this really cool smile too.”