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!
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