PROVINCE, Afghanistan (6/22/2011) – Soldiers from the 164th
Military Police Company, 793rd Military Police Battalion,
3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, remembered their fallen
comrade, U.S. Army Spc. Robert L. Voakes, Jr., from Hancock,
Mich, June 10 on Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam,
Voakes was one of four military police
officers from the 164th killed when an improvised explosive
device detonated June 4 outside the village of Khanda in
Laghman province, Afghanistan. Also killed were U.S. Army
Sgt. Joshua D. Powell,
of Tyler, Texas, U.S. Army
Sgt. Christopher R. Bell, of Saint Joseph, Mich., and
U.S. Army Sgt. Devin A.
Snyder, of Cohockton, N.Y.
“He always made
you laugh,” his friend and fellow military police officer in
the platoon, U.S. Army Spc. Victor Franco, from Tampa, Fla.,
recalled with a smile.
U.S. Army Capt. Christopher
Gehri, from Anchorage, Alaska, Voakes' company commander
with the 164th, also spoke of the young soldier's sense of
“Spc. Voakes chose his words carefully, more
often than not, at the exact right time to let his fellow
soldiers have a laugh,” Gehri said during the ceremony. “His
word was always good enough. His actions were above
U.S. Army Sgt. Jonathan Enlow, a team
leader with the 164th from Tahlequah, Okla., agreed.
“He was quiet, but not because he didn't know what to
say or didn't want to say it, but he just was reserved,”
Enlow said. “But he was always on the periphery watching.
And he always had a comeback, he was very witty. He was
waiting to say something and when he let it loose, you had
nothing you could say.”
U.S. Army Spc. Colton Oslund,
from Stillman Valley, Ill., another military police officer
with the 164th who spoke about Voakes at the memorial
ceremony, remembered something different about Voakes.
“I remember Spc. Voakes always talking about his
Cadillac,” Oslund recalled. He loved that car, and I'd like
to think that somewhere Voakes is driving around in a
24-karat-gold Cadillac with 24s, the truck bumpin' and
watching over us.”
Voakes was born in Hancock, Mich.,
Feb. 26, 1990, and joined the U.S. Army in 2009. He served
as military policeman, driver and gunner.
been my gunner, and he was an excellent gunner, he was just
flat out on it,” U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Vincent Vetterkind, a
squad leader with the 164th from Wausau, Wis., said.
But what all soldiers seemed to remember most about Voakes
was his tremendous pride for his Native American heritage.
In fact they say he was planning to take his mid-tour leave
to attend a Native American function back at his tribe, and
aspired to being a reservation police officer.
was Native American and very proud of that heritage,” Oslund
said. “He told his squad leader that he and one of his
brothers were the only two from his tribe that had been to
Afghanistan and in combat. His family was very proud of him
for his service.”
“He had a huge flag of his tribe in
his room,” Franco added. “He would get very upset if you
told him you thought he was anything else than Native
Perhaps Gehri summed it up when he said,
“Spc. Voakes was proud of his Native American heritage, and
the Keweenaw – his tribe. They were an important part of his
life. He was a warrior.”
His military awards include
the Purple Heart, Bronze Star
Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan
Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Army Service
Ribbon, Overseas Ribbon, North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Medal and the Combat Action Badge.
Voakes is survived
by his father.