News: Fallen US Army Spc. Robert L. Voakes remembered
Story by Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – 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, Afghanstan.
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. Christopher R. Bell, of Saint Joseph, Mich., U.S. Army Sgt. Devin A. Snyder, of Cohockton, N.Y., and U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua D. Powell, of Tyler, Texas.
“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 humor.
“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 reproach.”
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.
“He had 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.
“He 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 American.”
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.