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Wounded Warrior Fund

The USA is engaged in a war against terrorism and regardless of whether one is for or against the war now in progress in Iraq, our service men and women are putting their lives on the line for us. Wilderness Conservancy's Project CARE has established a fund and some very generous donors have contributed to that fund in order to help our wounded warriors cope with the trauma they suffered. The first award in the sum of $25,000.00 was presented to Marine Sgt. Michael Mella on April 29, 2005. His story follows:


Sgt. Michael Mella and his family at Camp Pendleton before his first tour of duty in Iraq.

IRAQ, July 19, 2004 - “The explosion blew our Humvee into the air and destroyed it. It was not a good end to our mission this day - delivering wheelbarrows, food, water, etc., to a small village whose people were in need".

USMC Gunnery Sgt. Michael Mella was riding in the left rear seat of his armored Humvee when four Russian artillery shells wired together and remotely detonated blew up. Luckily only three of the shells blew or far more injuries and probably death would have occurred.

Sgt. Mella was a Canadian, born in Ottawa and raised in Vancouver. He joined the USMC in 1992 and became a US citizen. Over the years of his service he progressed through the ranks. He was a member of the 1st. Marine Expeditionary Force, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, based at Camp Pendleton, California, and was the platoon commander of armored weapons Humvees, a position normally staffed by an officer.

At 0500 on the day of the explosion, Sgt. Mella's platoon had been assigned to search a house for illegal weapons and possible terrorists. This was routine and based on intelligence often collected from locals. The early morning search was not productive and they returned to base prior to 0800. At 0800 Sgt. Mella's platoon was assigned to go out again but this time to deliver wheelbarrows, food, water, etc., to a village in need. Sgt. Mella was not required to go on this mission but he wanted to be with his team and elected to go with them. After the delivery and in route back to his base his Humvee approached an area near an Iraqi police station approximately 300 meters from base. At the approach the IED was triggered and all hell broke loose.

Sgt. Mella did not lose consciousness and barked orders to get out of the Humvee, take cover and return fire. In attempting to get out he found his hands didn't work well at all. When he looked down at them he "knew" he lost his hands - they appeared shredded and he began to feel great pain. His team radioed for medics and since they were only about ten minutes from base when the explosion occurred, medics arrived quickly and he was taken to the base field hospital where his injuries were examined. Thanks to some very fine doctors bits and pieces of his hands were put back together and his very severe wounds stabilized enough for evacuation to Germany. Prior to being medivaced to Germany his team reported that through intelligence gathered the terrorists responsible for planting the IED had been located and that his team "took care of business".

In Germany he spent 3 days while a team of highly skilled military doctors worked to further salvage his hands so that he could be flown back to the USA where he would receive complete medical care. Overall he spent some 40 days in the hospital where nerves from his foot were transplanted to his hands, where bone grafts from his hips helped rebuild lost bones in his hands, wrists and forearms, and where skin grafts, muscle and sinew grafts and a whole lot of magic medicine by surgeons took place - surgeons who had gained a lot of knowledge and skill in treating warriors injured in battles in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sgt. Mella now undergoes extensive therapy 5 days a week at the military hospital at Balboa in San Diego. While he still has no sensation in his hands and can only wiggle a finger or two, he is very optimistic and has a great outlook. He would like to remain in the Marines and return to his team in Iraq but understands that given the nature of his loss he will probably be found to be "unfit for duty" and will eventually be discharged.

Sgt. Mella is now 35 years old and is blessed with a very supportive family. His wife Paris is 100% behind him and he has the love and support of his twin daughters ages 15, Chandler and Jordan, a daughter age 9, Kennedy and a son age 5, Carson. While in the Marines he earned a degree in accounting and hopes to become involved in the business world. Given his command presence, his "get the job done" attitude and the ability to rise to the occasion, he will be an asset in any endeavor.

Of the some 900 men of his Battalion, 33 were killed in action and more were wounded. The enemy suffered far greater losses. Sgt. Mella regards himself as very lucky that the fourth artillery shell did not explode and that he had some armor behind his back. He is proud to be a member of the US military and of the Marines in particular. He fully believes that the work we are doing in Iraq is extremely important, that given time the people of Iraq will enjoy some semblance of democracy and that the seed will grow to other Middle East nations hence to eliminate the breeding grounds of hate and terrorism against the USA and other nations that enjoy freedom around the world.

Sgt. Mella emphasized that the skills of military doctors is superb and that because of those skills he again has hands that will, with a bit of luck and a lot of therapy, serve him again. Now a days our wounded warriors very often have quick access to field hospitals and skilled doctors, a circumstance that helps greatly save lives and limbs.

Semper fi…

L to R, Dr. Robert N. Cleaves, Sgt. Michael Mella and Jack Mahoney
when presentation of award was made at Camp Pendleton on April 29, 2005.


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