SGT Michael M. Merila is one of four children born into an Army family, his father a retired aviator, Chief Warrant Officer Four Michael Merila, and his mother, Lieutenant Colonel Susan Merila, a retired officer from the Military Intelligence Corps. After graduating in 1998 from Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Arizona, he enlisted in the Army in 2001. He attended Basic Training and AIT, Advanced Individual Training, at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where he proved himself an exceptional soldier and received a Certificate of Achievement in Basic Training for graduating in the top ten percent of his class. Upon graduation from AIT, he further distinguished himself as both an outstanding soldier and paralegal, and received an Army Achievement Medal, a Certificate of Achievement, and Adjutant General’s Branch coin, and a coin from the post Command Sergeant Major as the Distinguished Honor Graduate.
His first assignment was as the Legal Specialist, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Interim Brigade Combat Team, at Fort Lewis Washington, where in October of 2001, he won the I Corps and Fort Lewis Paralegal of the Year Award. SGT Merila made himself an integral part of the unit, and was twice recog- nized by Army senior leadership. On 3 October 2002, SGT Merila received a coin for excellence from Major General Collins, the Deputy Commanding General of I Corps, for his performance as a paralegal during the preceding year. He received a second coin on 5 November 2002 from the Sergeant Major of the Army, SMA Tilley, for his performance during the brigade’s Warfighter Exercise. This was in response to a request from SMA Tilley to the First Sergeant, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, to name his top three soldiers in the company. SGT Merila was among the three named.
During 2003, SGT Merila was actively involved in the unit’s certification as the first Stryker Brigade Combat Team, a unit on the leading edge of Army transformation. The unit received orders to deploy to Iraq. Since SGT Merila had already served with the unit for two years, he was eligible to rotate to another unit, but he chose to stay - to stay with the unit he had helped establish and with the soldiers with whom he had served. In November 2003, the unit deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. SGT Merila continued to give his all to the unit and became their most proficient radio operator. He volunteered for missions of every kind including guard mount, radio traffic controller, and usually the machine gunner on convoy duty.
On 16 February 2004, one day before his 24th birthday, SGT Merila’s convoy was attacked by enemy combatants using an improvised explosive devices and small arms near Tal Afar, Iraq. SGT Merila was the gunner on the rear vehicle of the convoy, pulling rear security for his friends and fellow soldiers. He suffered a mortal wound and died doing what he loved to do, selflessly serving his country.
SGT Merila’s military awards include: the Bronze Star; the Purple Heart; the Army Achievement Medal; the Good Conduct Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; and the Army Service Ribbon. He was authorized to wear the Expert Marksmanship Badge.
On June 21, 2007, SGT Merila's stained glass pane was dedicated in the Hall of Heroes.
May God bless him and his family.