CHESTERFIELD, Va. -- It’s one of Sonja Stocklies most troubling fears. She never wants her beloved son Kyle to be forgotten.
“And you see he smiled all of the time,” says Kyle’s mom, Sonja. “He was a true light.”
The mother from Brandermill feels his loss each day.
“Very close,” says Sonja. “We were very close.”
But a looming anniversary cuts a little deeper.
When Kyle was attending middle-school the student with a penchant for writing love songs to the most important woman in his life vowed to join the military. Kyle kept his promise.
“He knew what he wanted,” says Sonja.
In 2010, he accelerated his studies at Cosby High School, graduating his junior year. He went from student to soldier within weeks. The Chesterfield was sent to Afghanistan where Specialist Stocklie thrived.
“See the thing is I was never scared he would never come back. I wasn’t scared,” says Sonja.
Near the end of his tour Kyle called his mother.
“He said my bags are packed and they are being shipped home tomorrow,” says Sonja.
But just days later, on June 1st, 2013 the 21-year-old would die when his patrol was attacked.
“He either stepped on or fell onto an explosive and it killed him right away,” says Sonja.
Back in Virginia there was a knock at the door.
“When I saw the two military men there I knew,” says Sonja.
In the five years since her only son’s death. Sonja has maintained Kyle’s memorial garden right outside her front door.
“I’m a nature girl. I’ve always liked nature things,” says Sonja. “He would probably bring me a pebble or stone every day.”
In 2015, just a short drive from his garden the county would name a bridge spanning Swift Creek Reservoir in his honor. A bridge many teens use to reach Cosby.
At the high school his gregarious nature still resonates with his former educators.
English teacher Richard Dailey says Kyle’s death rocked the hallways.
“I think there is a lot that students can learn characterize wise what Kyle was like,” says Mr. Dailey. “It is important to remember a kid like Kyle because he is the type of kid you wish every kid would be like.”
Kyle’s legacy will be a teachable moment.
A new permanent display case is dedicated to the former Titan complete with Kyle’s uniform, purple heart and dog tags. Art teacher Susan Lamson says Kyle inspired staff and students.
“I have a hard time talking about him in the past because I still think he is still here,” says Ms. Lamson.
“He was a go getter. Anything he did in life he put everything he had into it,” says Ms. Lamson.
Susan says these artifacts on permanent loan will keep Kyle’s memory fresh.
“It is important that we remember Kyle. He hasn’t been gone that long, but he will remain,” says Ms. Lamson.
Reassuring words for Kyle’s mother who carries a heavy heart. It is comfort knowing her son’s legacy is in safe hands.
“He truly was an amazing young man from the moment he was born,” says Sonja.
Now this grieving mom can only ponder the what ifs?
“You often think what he would do now. Would he be married. Would he have children. He would have been a great father. Really.”
Sonja Stoeckli will deliver the keynote address at the upcoming Military Appreciation/Memorial Day ceremony at Cosby. A few members of Kyle’s unit are expected to attend.
If you know of someone I should feature in my “Heroes Among Us” segment email me.