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NEWS | Oct. 13, 2021

Highway rededicated to two fallen Georgia Guardsmen

By Capt. Bryant Wine

Soldiers, veterans, retirees, families and friends met in Loganville, Georgia, for a rededication of a section of Georgia State Route 81 in memory to U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Stokely and Master Sgt. Mark Allen Oct. 12, 2021.

Stokely and Allen served in the Georgia Army National Guard and resided in Loganville. The date of rededication coincides with the date of Allen’s death on Oct. 12, 2019.

“Today, we are gathered to honor to honor men who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom. 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,” said Rey Martinez, mayor of Loganville, Georgia. “Master Sgt. Mark Allen and Sgt. Mike Stokely are certainly worthy of the honor that we are gathered here today.”

The 10-mile long stretch of highway dedicated to the Georgia Guardsmen begins at the intersection with U.S. Route 78 and ends at the Newton County line. This portion runs through the community of Youth and town of Walnut Grove.

The section of State Route 81 was previously dedicated in memory of Stokely, who was killed in action in Iraq on Aug. 16, 2005. The ceremony rededicated the portion of highway in memory of Stokely and Allen, who died in October 2019 as a result of wounds he sustained in Afghanistan in July 2009.

Stokely became the first Walton County resident to die in combat since World War II. He was assigned to the Griffin-based Echo Troop, 108th Cavalry Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Stokely and Allen served in the same troop and deployed together to Iraq in 2005. The 2005-2006 deployment to Iraq was the first of four 48th IBCT deployments in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

“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, commander of Echo Troop, 108th Cavalry Regiment, during the 2005-2006 deployment. “Mike was our first casualty, a loss that rippled across the troop with anguish we will never forget. It is fitting today that we memorialize Mark Allen, the troop’s last casualty of war.”

In 2007, Echo Troop, 108th Cavalry Regiment, consolidated with the Griffin-based Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th IBCT. Many of the troop’s Soldiers joined units throughout the brigade and deployed again in 2009, this time to Afghanistan.

At the time, Allen served as the readiness NCO for the Recruit Sustainment Program at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia. He volunteered for the 2009 deployment, joining the Newnan-based Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th IBCT.

Allen was severely wounded in July 2009 while conducting combat operations. He was hospitalized for more than three years before returning home to Loganville. Allen retired from the Georgia Army National Guard in 2013, completing more than 21 years of military service, before dying in 2019 as a result of the wounds he attained ten years prior.

Stokely and Allen are among 43 Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers enshrined at the memorial wall at Clay National Guard Center, the state headquarters in Marietta, Georgia. The memorial wall is dedicated to Georgia National Guardsmen who died while supporting combat operations after 9/11.

Allen became the first Soldier added to the memorial wall since 2010 when the Georgia National Guard dedicated a plaque in his honor during a Memorial Day ceremony in 2020.

The Georgia State Route 81 rededication ceremony began with a speech at the American Legion post near the intersection of U.S. Route 78 and Georgia State Route 81. Next, a procession followed the newly dedicated Sgt. Michael Stokely and Master Sgt. Mark Allen Highway. The procession ended at Corinth Christian Church where Allen is buried next to a marker dedicated to Stokely. Stokely rests at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

“The rededication is important to me because we need to tell to Soldiers, the community and the world that we will not forget those that gave their life for America,” said Robert Stokely, the father of Sgt. Michael Stokely. “It’s a tangible reminder of what they did, why they did it and who they did it for.”