Highway dedication

The commanders and families of fallen soldiers Master Sgt. Mark Allen and Sgt. Michael Stokely, along with local elected officials, pose with the rededicated highway sign bearing their names during a dedication ceremony Oct. 12, 2021, at American Legion Post 233 in Loganville.

America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are over, but the overwhelming loss felt by Gold Star families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice remains a lifelong sorrow.

The grief borne by the families of Retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen and Sgt. Michael Stokely, and their Loganville neighbors, was lifted a bit Tuesday due to a highway dedication in memory of Allen and Stokely.

A portion of state Route 81 from Atlanta Highway (U.S. 78) in Loganville south to the Newton County line now bears their names.

Robert Stokely, father of Michael Stokely, lobbied to have the highway dedicated to his son, and is credited for having it rededicated for both Michael Stokely and Mark Allen. 

American Legion Post 233 in Loganville hosted the ceremony, after which a procession traveled down the rededicated highway ending at Corinth Christian Church.

“[The rededication] is a tangible reminder of what they did, why they did it and who they did it for,” Robert Stokely said, according to a story by Capt. Bryant Wine with the Georgia National Guard.

The rededication was held two years to the day Allen died as a result of injuries he sustained in battle.

Allen, a husband and father, was 46 when he died. He spent 21 years in the U.S. Army and the Army National Guard. He retired in 2013 upon receiving a Purple Heart.

Allen was shot by a sniper while on foot patrol in Afghanistan in 2009, and required three years of care at a military hospital in Tampa, Fla. He was left unable to walk or talk, and in need of 24-hour care.

Allen was searching for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had left his post in eastern Afghanistan. Bergdahl was captured and held for five years until released in a 2014 prisoner swap.

The community rallied around the Allen family when he returned home. Volunteers built a playground for Allen’s young daughter and did landscaping, and helped buy adaptive jackets for other soldiers who had been wounded.

Stokely, a Loganville High School graduate, was killed Aug. 16, 2005, when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Iraq. He was assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment, 48th Brigade Combat Team out of Griffin, Ga.

“Today, we are gathered to honor men who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom,” said Loganville Mayor Rey Martinez. “Two men from our community who did not back down in the face of evil to defend the freedoms that we as Americans enjoy and cherish.”

“I’m proud to have served Mike and Mark as their commander of Troop E, 108th Cavalry, and I’m honored to speak on their behalf as we rededicate this highway to them both,” said retired U.S. Army Maj. John Alderman. “[Mike] was our first casualty, a loss that rippled across the troop with an anguish we’ll never forget. And so is fitting that today we memorialize Mark Allen, the troop’s last casualty of war.”

Alderman recalled that after Allen returned from deployment to Iraq, he returned to recruiting. He was called to serve a second tour in Afghanistan just a few years later.

“Sad as we are that he died, we are truly grateful he lived, and that we lived to know him; and we are proud to know that both he and Mike will continue to live on in memories like this one.”

Along with Alderman, Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden, adjutant general of the Georgia National Guard, and Maj. Gen. John King of the Georgia National Guard currently assigned to Northcom in Colorado Springs, Colo., spoke at the ceremony. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp appointed King as Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner on July 1, 2019.

Allen and Stokely’s family members were present for the dedication, as was Julie Singleton, wife of Army veteran and Georgia Rep. (Dist. 71) Philip Singleton.

Singleton said her husband supported the dedication, which was “signed off on” by state Representatives Tom Kirby and Bruce Williamson.

Candidate Marc McMain who is running for the U.S. House to represent Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, and his wife, Liliana, also showed.

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