Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday for the Military: Meet Captain Stokes

It is my distinct honor and joy to introduce my hero to you, my readers. My father has done so much for the United States and for our family that loves him so dearly and admires him so greatly. Please join me in welcoming Captain Floyd Stokes (pictured left at the service for his uncle Lt. Robert Crane at Arlington National Cemetery this past summer) to "Seasons of Humility!"

Amber: To start, could you tell us a little about yourself and why you chose to join the U.S. military?

Captain Stokes: First of all, I am now retired, from both my U.S. military career and my subsequent civilian career as a law enforcement officer and police executive.

I first joined the service as an enlisted man back in the 1950s, but I managed, during the Vietnam era, to be accepted for flight training as a Naval Flight Officer (navigator), and I gained my commission as a U.S. Navy Ensign in the mid-1960s. After three tours of duty in the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam and 185 combat support missions flying off aircraft carriers in both prop and jet reconnaissance aircraft, I transferred to Naval Intelligence. I completed my Navy career after nearly 30 years of active and reserve service, retiring as a Navy Captain (0-6) in 1999.

After transferring from active duty to the Naval Reserve, I started a new career as a law enforcement officer, starting as a deputy sheriff, then as a criminal investigator, then finally as a chief of police. After retiring from active law enforcement, I continued as a part-time college instructor in the field of criminal justice and owner of a private investigations and law enforcement consulting firm—my current dual occupation.

Amber: What branch(es) of the military have you served in? How would you describe your overall experience?

Captain Stokes: Actually, I started as an enlisted man in the U.S. Air Force. I then transferred to the U.S. Navy, where I completed my military career—first as enlisted, then as an officer. Judging from my career (from the lowest ranking Air Force enlisted man to a high-ranking Naval officer) I guess you could say my military experience was satisfying, indeed. Sure, I cleaned my share of latrines and mess-halls early on, and I was shot at (by both North Vietnamese MIGs and anti-aircraft guns) more than a few times, but I traveled all over the world, ate pretty darned good (on board the aircraft carriers… most of the time), and even earned two college degrees (compliments of Uncle Sam and the GI Bill). I am proud to have served my country as a military man.

Amber: Could you share at least one of the ways you saw God working in your life during your term of service?

Captain Stokes: I would like to say that I was always a decent Christian man during my time in the military, but I wasn’t. However, even when I turned my back on him, I knew that God looked after me. One moonlit night, I bailed out of the upper hatch of an out-of-control, spiraling Navy A-3 jet about 600 feet above the ocean. In those frightening moments before I hit the water, I distinctly heard a voice say to me, “It is going to be okay.” The voice was so soothing, powerful, and calm that I knew it was God’s voice. It certainly wasn’t mine…. I was scared out of my wits! I knew at that moment God did not intend for me to die that night—that he had something else planned for me. I should have had the sense to learn from what happened to me…. and to bend to God’s will from that point on, but, of course, I was foolishly human. It wasn’t until years later that I finally accepted Christ in my life—and discovered God’s plan included the blessing of three wonderful Christian women, my wonderful wife and our two sweet daughters, in my life. He has been so good to me, and I thank him every single day.

Amber: Do you recall any lessons you learned about humility while in the military that we could also learn from?

Captain Stokes: Goodness, there have been so many, where should I start? All I can say at this point is this: It seems that every time I have attempted to solve a crisis without prayer and with the belief that “I can do it on my own,” I have been forced to my knees and have been taught, once again, to be humble and ask for God’s help. From flight school, when I nearly drowned trying to pass the swimming test and the “Dilbert Dunker” (upside-down, cockpit in the water) escape training, to ocean survival training, to night-time combat missions off the carrier, to …. well, I could go on and on.

Amber: What are some of the needs you or other military men and women you know have? What are ways those of us on the "home front" (so to speak) could help meet those needs?

Captain Stokes: I think the most important need is for prayer, but also military men and women, especially those in combat zones, need to know that those of us on the “home front” support them and appreciate their sacrifices. It is unbelievably difficult to be separated from your loved ones for such long periods—and to undergo the physical and mental stresses of life in a combat zone. Support can be in the form of personal communication (letters, e-mails, holiday cards, “socks for solders,” etc.) … or speaking out publically. No one should advocate war over peace. But, military service is an honorable, courageous, and patriotic undertaking—and it should be respected as such.

Amber: How can we pray for you specifically, as well as all those in the military?

Captain Stokes: Please pray that…. when our time on this earth has come to an end…. my spirit and the spirits of my comrades in arms—active, reserve, discharged, retired—will be accepted into the presence of our loving God…. That truly is my desire.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to answer your questions.

Amber: How can I thank you enough for all you have done, Daddy? Your responses made me cry, and I'm so, so thankful that I have you for a father. God has blessed our family so much!

Thank you for visiting my blog, for serving our country in so many amazing ways, and for supporting me in all my endeavors. I love you!

30 comments:

Renee Ann said...

A beautiful tribute to a courageous, honorable man! It was inspiring to read how God spoke to you, Capt. Stokes. Maybe dealing with life or death situations so often helps military folks see the reality of God and open their hearts to Him. Thanks for all you've done for our country.

I see why you're so proud of your father, Amber!

Blessings to you both, Amber and Capt. Stokes!

Project Journal said...

Wow Amber. What a touching post filled with passion, honor, humility, and most of all love. It's all too clear the bond that the two of you share.

Capt. Stokes, thank you for taking the time to visit Amber's lil' ol' blog *wink* and chat with us. But most of all, thank you for your service. It makes me so proud to know that our military was and still is (I'm sure) made up of men and women like you.

Like Renee, it really touched me to hear of how God spoke to you. I'm sure you are reminded of that and Him every single day!

Thanks you for everything you've done!!

Thank you too Amber! I'm so glad to have met you on that fateful day that I stumbled onto your little baby blog, now it's all grown up *sniffle, sniffle*
Talk to you later!!
*hugs to both the Capt. AND Amber!!*
Hannah

Julia M. Reffner said...

Thank you, Amber for interviewing your Father and thank you Captain Stokes for sharing the lessons you've learned. Praise God for the men and women who serve in the military...and also in law enforcement. While serving on jury duty, I gained a greater understanding for the level of service and sacrifice by law enforcement in our community.

Amanda said...

What a powerful and deeply moving interview! Captain Stokes it is an absolute honor to meet you. I can’t believe all you’ve done in your lifetime on behalf of others, for the safety of America, for God and country. Your selflessness is humbling and inspiring. And, equally humbling and inspiring was your honest and heartfelt responses here.

“Foolishly human” – that really spoke to me. I’m reminded of 2Peter 3:9 where it says, that the Lord, “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Oh, how the Lord patiently knocks on our hearts door! I think once we accept Christ, He opens our eyes to see how He has ALWAYS been there for us, even when we were dead in our sins, and continues to be when we become saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:1-10). The Lord’s way and His will are always better than our own, and full of blessings we could have never imagined! Like a wonderful, loving family :) Your life is full of one testimony after the next and I’m so blessed to have read some of them (because I’m sure there’s more!) here today :)

You should be quoted when you said: “No one should advocate war over peace. But, military service is an honorable, courageous, and patriotic undertaking—and it should be respected as such.” Amen. That was such a beautifully truthful and powerfully perfect way to describe it. And, your prayer request, for you and your comrades in arms, made me cry (actually the majority of the interview made me cry), but this particular prayer request touched a deep place in my heart. I will most definitely pray to that end.

Thank you, Captain Stokes, for being here today and sharing with us what the Lord has done in and through you, and how we can pray for and help those who serve our country. I pray He will bless you and the men and women who serve and have served, richly :)

Amber, what can I say, my friend? You blessed my heart to tears :) It was so nice learning more about your sweet daddy and it’s beautiful to see the close, special bond you two share :) Praying the Lord will bless you and your family, and continue to guide and inspire these wonderful posts for our military!!

Blessings,
Amanda Stanley

Casey said...

What a treat and honor to "meet" you Captain Stokes, your experiences are profound and I greatly enjoyed this interview. You have raised a wonderful daughter and I honored to have gotten to know her through the web. And hopefuly, someday we can work out a chance to meet in person, right Amber? ;)

Laura Frantz said...

Amber, It's such a privilege and honor to meet your dad here! And I love that he is your hero. Not only is he a fine man and officer, I know he is a wonderful father! May you both be immensely blessed. You've sure blessed me by being here. Thank you.

Ariel said...

Oh dear me, I cried! Very touching. Thank you so much!

Renee Ann said...

Amber, I popped back in (while I was waiting for a student to finish a quiz!) and read Amanda's post about your dad's words: "No one should advocate war over peace . . . " etc.

I was reminded of a speech in which a military vet said, "Claiming that a soldier loves war is like saying that a surgeon loves disease." That comparison brought home some truth for me, and this seemed to be the right place to share it!

Amber S. said...

Renee Ann,

My dad is indeed "a courageous, honorable man," and I really appreciate your kind comment for him and me. :) This is just one glimpse at a truly remarkable man who has done so much more in his life so far than I can even comprehend!

And I agree that the rigors and trials of the military probably remind the military men and women of how short and precious life really is--and how important it is to know the Lord and one's eternal destination. I can't imagine all that they go through!

Thank you for stopping by!

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Hannah,

Oh, I think you explained it so well! "What a touching post filled with passion, honor, humility, and most of all love." My dad did such a beautiful job with this interview, and I'm so thankful that he shared so much with all of us and that my readers could see even just a small glimpse of the wonderful daddy I have. :)

I'm also glad that you stumbled on my blog months ago--because your friendship means so much to me! It's amazing to see how far all of us have come in such a short time. :) Thank you for your kind words and for your friendship, Hannah!

~Amber

Vince said...

Hi Amber:

It’s possible that your father and I were in the USAF at the same time. For those who don’t know military ranks, a Navy Captain is the equivalent of a full bird Colonel in the Army, Marines, and USAF. Your father has had a remarkable service career but I’ll bet he is most proud of having such a loving daughter. Praise be to both of you.

Vince

Angie said...

It was nice "meeting" your father. That was certainly a touching interview. Thanks for sharing! :)

Joy Tamsin David said...

What a beautiful interview!

My grandfather was a pilot in the Navy too.

Thank you for serving our country Captain Stokes!

Kav said...

Wow, Amber, you are blessed! What an amazing relationship you have with your father. It's clear to see that you have inherited some of his best traits. Blessings to you both. And I just have to add that, girl, if you don't write suspense you are crazy....you have the finest research tool living right at home!!!!!

Amber S. said...

Julia,

You're welcome. :) It meant so much to me that I could do this interview with him! From what he's told me of his experiences in law enforcement, I admire him even more and all those who uphold justice in a very sordid world.

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Amanda,

You comment is beautiful, and I'm so touched by your insights and your encouraging, caring words. You are an incredibly sweet and exemplary person, Amanda!

Thank you for all that you shared, including the verses and the kind words. You are an inspiration to me, my friend!

I'm so glad you could "meet" my amazing, loving dad. His responses made me really cry when I read them the first time, too. :)

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Casey,

So glad you could stop by, and I think that is such a great way to put it, that my dad's "experiences are profound." And he certainly has a way with words! He can make me cry so easily with his loving, encouraging nature and his heartfelt words. :)

And you're so sweet to say all those nice things about me! I have been blessed to be friends with YOU through the web, and I surely hope we can meet soon! :D

~Amber

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Well holy cow now I know where you get your awesomeness from! It must be such a blessing for you to have such a wonderful dad. I thank him and all the service men and women out there for their absolute bravery EVERYDAY! I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to face the enemy every day and not knowing if you would live to see another sunrise. WOW! Thank you sir for sharing your story and for raising such a wonderful girl! I'm glad I've gotten to know you both a little through this blog. :-)

XOXO~ Renee

Amber S. said...

Laura,

He truly is a wonderful father! He provides so well for our family, supports me in my endeavors and gives me advice, takes the time to send me responses to my interview questions when he also has to grade papers and such for school...and so, so much more! He is an amazing man, and I love him so very much!

I'm so glad you were blessed by the interview--I know I was! :) Thank you so much for stopping by!

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Ariel,

Oh, I did, too! :) Thank you for stopping by! My dad has such a way with words, I think he moved us all.

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Renee Ann,

Thank you for sharing that quote! That definitely fits in well with what my dad was saying, and it's quite a powerful comparison!

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Vince,

That's neat! Thank you so much for your service to our country. And thank you for stopping by to encourage me and my dad, as well!

My dad has indeed had an extraordinary service career, and I am in awe of all that he has done in his life so far. Thank you so much for that sweet comment, as well! I'm really proud of my daddy, and it means so much when he tells me he's proud of me, too. :)

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Angie,

I'm so glad you had the chance to "meet" him! I was really touched by his responses, too. :) Thank you for stopping by!

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Joy,

It surely is a beautiful interview! :) I'm so thankful for my dad!

I'm grateful for your grandfather's service to our country, as well. Military men and women sacrifice so much for us all!

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Kav,

I know! I truly am. :) And thank you for that compliment!

And yes, I surely do have a great opportunity for "research." I don't know if I'm really into writing suspense, but if I wanted to write some sort of book with a military or law enforcement setting, I'm good to go, right? ;)

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Renee,

Awwww, thank you! Yes, it is a great blessing to have such a wonderful dad. :) He has so many incredible stories!

And I'm so glad I've gotten to know you through blogging, as well! :D To think--over 6 months ago (I think) I e-mailed you asking for advice on how to start a blog. Can you believe it's already been half a year? And yet it also feels like I've been blogging forever! Fits in with Einstein's relativity theory, right? ;)

~Amber

Bluerose said...

Thank you, Captain Stokes for your words of wisdom!!! Of course, I cried through part of it! :) I'm so grateful for all you have done for our country and for blessing the world with Amber! She's such an encouragement!

Amber,
Thank you for this awesome interview! This will always be a treasure for your family!!!!

Amber S. said...

Bluerose,

My daddy sure knows how to write in a way that touched all of our hearts! :) Thank you for the kind words, Bluerose! This will definitely be an interview to treasure.

~Amber

KC Frantzen said...

Thank you Captain Stokes for your service to our fantastic country. Know you are extremely proud of your daughter. The apple didn't fall far from the tree it seems.

Amber - It seems as though this one word sums him up: INTEGRITY. Such a rare character trait these days and your Daddy has it in spades.

Thanks for this wonderful addition to your blog!!

Keep the faith!
Love in Christ, always,
KC

Amber S. said...

KC,

Thank you so much for stopping by, and thank you for that wonderful compliment! I love that you think I take after my dad. :)

And I completely agree--my dad is a man full of integrity. I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview, and I'm looking forward to featuring you on here soon! :D

~Amber