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