Fallen Heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Remembering the servicemembers who died in the service of their country.

Army Sgt. Michael M. Merila

23, of Sierra Vista, Arizona.
Merila died in Talifar, Iraq, when his convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Washington. Died on February 16, 2004.

Merila has been posthumously promoted to Sergeant.

Please send information, photos, and corrections for Army Sgt. Michael M. Merila.


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"For everyone who is BBQ'ing, and or shopping sales over Memorial Weekend, remember what this day remembers. This is for all who gave their lives so you could have freedoms. I remember Michael Merila, who was killed Feb 16, 2004 in Iraq. I have two tattoos to remember him. He was my battle buddy for two years. You are missed but not forgotten. I talked to him 8 days before he was killed. The last thing I said to him was, "don't do anything stupid", and Michael said, "I don't plan on it." 8 days he was gone from this earth. Take a moment to remember the fallen."
Matthew Miller of Boynton Beach, FL USA

I have been putting this message off for a long time. Not entirely sure why. Perhaps, because once I leave it, its real for me. You are really gone.

I remember my first job at KFC. I was 16. I remember your laugh and hearing you and Jay talk about all of your adventures. I had always wanted to know what those were like. Never found out for I was looked at and protected like a little sister in some sense. Being the oldest in my family this was foreign to me. I look at it now and am comforted to know that I had you looking out for me then. It appears in many ways...I still do.

We were not best friends, but friends none the less and anytime I lose a brother or sister in uniform the pain is felt. I was lucky in my tours as medical, but saw so many come through. Each one with a family, story and loved ones. You save the ones you can and fight until the last breath of the others. You cry your own tears after the adrenaline stops pumping and somehow rise to do it again the next day. We shared that one adventure in some ways I suppose...the United States Army.

We are remembering the fallen here at the VA Medical Center where I work now and I remember you. Though you are fallen...you are not forgotten. You live on in the hearts and lives of so many that loved you. May God be with each of them and bring peace on the difficult days."
Amanda Davis of Louisville, Kentucky

"We do not know Michael. I lost 4 of my Airmen in Laos, 2 of my Marines and 1 of my Soldiers in Vietnam. To remember them, their faces, their voices and laughter, I fly the flag for them, each get's a day. Over the years, we've added others to the "flag list," including the troops we adopt now. We know of Michael through one of his comrades, Matt Conover. Tomorrow [14 Dec 2013], I will raise the flag for, and to honor, Michael and his service to our country. The flag we use right now flew over Marine Camp Blue Diamond at Ar Ramadi Iraq in 2005 and was a gift from our adopted Marine then. The flag list has grown, but Michael will come up again, and will not be forgotten."
Fred Jensen of Auburn CA

"6/21/12 I still think about you and how much I miss you. You were my best friend and love of my life. I will always love you with all my heart since the day I first met you in high school til the day I leave this earth."

"There isent a day i dont think about u mike. you where one of the coolest cats i knew.....i know where u are now no one can hurt u......u will be missed but never forgotten... i love u man"
Sven Brendel of Sierra Vista Az

"My brother... Your may be gone but I will never forget that day. I drove that humvee that day and I just wish it was a day in my life that never happend. You were one of a kind and made that deployment easy. I had a wife amd kids but you helped me find that humor and strength to keep going. You were my friend, room mate for 3 months, but most of all my brother that I will never forget. Your brother for life CPL Martinez"
CPL Martinez

"Mike, I find myself thinking of you alot and remembering the first time I met You, We were both sixteen and I remember driving out to your house and seeing this skinny dorky guy with a wife beater and a North Carolina Hat on and thinking then what a dork,soon after that we hung out everyday,you became my closest and most dearest friend,I trusted you with all my heart and was never afraid when you were around,You took care of all of us and you were the backbone of the Rat pack. Your still to this day MY brother and you always will be,I remember talking to you right before you left for Iraq saying how we were going live next to each other and grow to be old men together and I so wish that was still true. Mike you did so much for me,more then anyone ever has and I will never forget that.I will never forget the best friend I had for almost 8 years and to this day you still are. I feel lost with out you buddy sometimes but I know your still keeping an eye out for me.I love and miss you everyday and hope one day I can see my best friend again."
Damian Ellenburg of Corvallis OR, / Sierra Vista AZ

"It has been 6 1/2 years and you are still in my thoughts so frequently. Today was one of those days I googled your name to read all the positive things people remember of you and what a good person you were. Memories of holidays with your humor, Sprite in Mom's pantry always waiting for you (she kept it there for years after you were gone and none of us would touch it) and your huge smile. You were working to keep people safe that night and I know you still do as you watch over us. Love you cuz."
~J of Gig Harbor, Wa

"I never want to forget the sacrifices of so many young men and women. I am so proud it makes me cry. I understand in theory only that war is a part of human nature but so is love and caring. I wish I could take the families pain away but I can't. I am committed to loving ALL people, myself and our environment. I am committed to working on my happiness everyday because so many have died for my freedom to live my life. Thank you is not enough but it is all I have. All my love and respect. ogersteiner@yahoo.com"
Scott E. Steiner of Worthington, OH

"February 3, 2009
To the family of Sgt. Michael M. Merila:
Michael gave the ultimate sacrifice and will be held in the hearts of Americans forever. I cannot and will not let our fallen heroes be forgotten. My deepest sympathy to you. "Some gave all."
Peggy Childers
"Don't Let The Memory Of Them Drift Away"
Peggy Childers of Carson City, NV

"Mike you were a great friend. Four years have almost passed and I feel as if we talked just a few months ago. It's still hard to think about you and all the fun times we had with all of our friends and not get shaken up. I know if you were here now you would tell us not to be sad and just have a good time, and a margarita with some laughs, since thatís the kind of person you were. I canít help but sit here at times and wonder what you would have been doing if you were still alive. How many people would you have inspired to be such a great person like yourself? I get upset because you had such endless possibilities for so many great things, (that so many of us take for granted) taken away from you. I hope that you knew how special your friendship meant to all of us. I am happy, proud, and above all incredibly honored to have had you as a friend in this crazy life we live in. I will always continue to talk about our memories and keep you alive in spirit. You will always be remembered."
Eric of Sierra Vista

"I had just gotten to HHT, 1-14 cav and didn't really know too many people. The night before his convoy got hit, I had dinner with Merila and I remember distinctly walking away from that dinner with one thought in mind. I just met someone who was special. It's rare to feel that way, but just from that brief encounter with Michael, I knew that we'd be friends. I'll never forget the night my 1SG knocked on my door and the look on his face when he asked if we had the file on Merila. My thoughts go out to his family and friends for whatever it's worth. He was one of the few and I'll do my best to uphold the kind of standards I think he probably lived by.


Michael Bruggink of Cebu, Philippines

"I was the soldier driving that humvee that day. Merila was one of the best soldiers and persons I ever knew. We were roomates for 4 months and there is nothing more that I would have wanted more than for us to come back home safe that day. I have been out of the military for 3 years but that day is forever imprinted in my mind. God bless you Merila and someday we will meet each other on the green."
CPL Martinez, Rudy A. of San Antonio, TX/US

"Michael, you will always be the one that made my heart skip a beat. I will never forget the times that God made it possible for us to cross paths. I have never known a more honorable, sweet, caring, honest, beautiful, silly, and fun-loving man. My only regret is that we lost touch. You are always in my heart and on my mind. My prayers are ALWAYS with your family. I know your up there looking upon us all. I will LOVE you always!"
lisa lee of Bridgewater, Massachusetts

"Family of Michael Merila and close friends - It is with great sympathy and compassion I leave this brief epitathe in memory my friend and hero. I was Michael's AIT instructor and have never been so impressed with student during my two year tenure. Micheal was so full of life, happy, always smiling, regardless of the heavy work load and lack of sleep attributed to a training environment. His optimism surpassed all bounderies and always lifted my spirits. Michael was the distinguished honor graduate of the class and had the highest GPA of any student I instructed. So on many occassions, I ask myself......... "God, why SPC Merila?" This is the kind if guy that had everything to give to society; such a positive influence on everyone who ever met him. Thus the reason for my post: I have struggled for two years over this. Michael is the whole reason I volunteered to go to Iraq and try to make a difference, hoping some how it would ease his loss. Though the deployment went well (because I am here to post this email), I still suffer from PTSD and the loss of those who have influenced my life in such a positive way. Unfortunatley, with war comes the loss of loved ones and the struggle, and grief of those who actually make it home. Mom and Dad - Hold his memories close; he was one of a kind and increadibly special. His picture will always remain the backdrop on my computer; that's the least I can do for a hero and a friend. I will see you one day Michael.... my brother in arms, and more importantly my brother in Christ.... God Bless your family and bring them peace.

Steven R. Brooks
Chief Paralegal NCO
Steven of Cranston, RI

"Thank you, Mike, for the times that I was fortunate enough share with you. I miss you. Your an effin hero, man."
Justin Hort

"Michael, Family, and Friends,
I was one of the individuals that hauled you out of that place. It was a quiet, peaceful night in Mosul when I picked you up and took you to Kuwait and I said my final goodbyes to you. You were my first of many that I hauled out of Iraq. You have lived in my head and my heart ever since. I got to know you and your life from researching the internet. Michael, you are an honorable man from an honorable family. I will never forget that night that I had the honor of taking you out of that place for that long ride back to the U.S. Your memory will always live on in your family, your friends, my crew, myself, and my children. May God Bless Michael M. Merila and his family."
Doug S. of Wellington, Ohio

"Now and forever...you're a part of me, and your memory cuts like a knife. Now and forever...I'll remember, all the promises still unbroken, and think about all the words between us, that never needed to be spoken. We had a moment, just one moment...that will last beyond the dreams beyond the lifetime. We are the lucky ones...some people never get to do all we got to do. Now and forever...I will always think of you.
I will always love and miss you Mike. I'll see you again one day."
Alan Gowman of Meadow Bridge, West Virginia

"Now and forever...you're a part of me, and your memory cuts like a knife. Now and forever...I'll remember, all the promises still unbroken, and think about all the words between us, that never needed to be spoken. We had a moment, just one moment...that will last beyond the dreams beyond the lifetime. We are the lucky ones...some people never get to do all we got to do. Now and forever...I will always think of you.
I will always love and miss you Mike. I'll see you again one day."
Alan Gowman of Meadow Bridge, West Virginia

"To the family of Michael M. Merila, I am so sorry for the loss of your love one. He died a hero defending freedom. May you have the peace and understanding that only comes from God. Prayfully we will all meet in Heaven one day where we will rest in the arms of Jesus. IF you need prayer or need someone to talk to please call or write my pastor at Gateway Community Church: Rev.John Pearrell 11677 Brown Bridge Rd. Covington, Ga 30016 phone 770-787-1015. Your friend in Jesus Christ,"
Polly Ballew of Covington,Ga.

"hero: someone who selfishly does an act out of the goodness of his heart, without anything in return."

"Mike wasn't just a great friend he was a great person. Anytime I ever needed help he never turn me away I really appriecated that and I will trully miss him. You don't find to many great ones like that. Love Ya Bro"
Justin Eisenmann of Sierra Vista/Tadji, Iraq

We're all back now. We're stronger cause of it but we would be stronger with you by our side. The night crew will always be your crew by yourside no matter what roads we take in life. Your always our brother in arms. The squadron will always be with you. See you on the green.

"There's a fire on the roof!!!""
Spc Trinidad, James Mathew of Chicago, Illinois

"R.I.P M&M

"Mike, you will be missed. The Rat Pack will never be the same. For all of those that reeeeally got the chance to know you, they will also know of your greatness and goofiness. Before your time is what I still think. But, for the service of our country, you have given the ultimate price. Know that you still live in our hearts and memories. Everything we have built upon is still there, and continues to build as our lives go on. For your family, I again offer condolences for losing such a wonderful son and brother. Never again will there be a character like Michael Merila in this lifetime. See you around, bro."
Jernel Escober aka Jay of Sierra Vista, AZ

"A courageous hero who not only loved his family, but cared for others. I will always honor the privilege I had to know and work with this caring man and soldier."
Robert Llanes of Crawfordville, FL

"Mike. We all miss you. I know that you will always be that special spirit that had always kept all of us in the group together. Whenever I look back on my life. I will always remember the great times you and I had before we joined the army. I keep your spirit alive and express all the great things about you constantly. You will always live forever in our hearts. Our paths will cross again. Miss you.

"I knew Mike since he was young.I was a pushy upperclassman.He was real cool to me than and later on during ouyr early adulthood.He was a great man and I send my deapest regards to his military family which i believe is still active duty.He is a great man."
Reggie Thornton of Sierra vista /arizona

"God Bless Mike and his family. I knew Mike back when we were young soldiers/privates in AIT. I was fortunate enough to get to know him as well as the rest of our class. He was not a great person but rather than an AWESOME INDIVIDUAL! I had never met anyone like Mike prior to then or even now. He was unique as he was special. As for me, I believe he never left this earth because his spirit still lives in our hearts. He will always be here in my heart. HOOAH!"
SGT Maria C. of Long Beach, CA

"i miss you mike"

"Sergeant,Michael Merila, we are so proud of you for what you sacrificed in Iraq, and you have touched many hearts around the world.
Rest in peace, my true Hero."
Eric of Canada

"Specialist Merila, goodbye soldier and thank you. You are my hero."
Bill of Houston, Texas

"I am very sorry for the loss of Michael. I also lost a friend in Iraq and I can understand what you are going through. Michael was very brave to be where he was, now he has passed on to better life, where he is now serving as a soldier for GOD. May God bless your family through these hard times and may he make you strong."
Esperanza Sanchez of Douglas, AZ

Please KNOW so many people share your sadness, and we are remembering your family in your loss and your deep grief. Your HERO, Michael, will be remembered by name. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. God Bless you. Pat & Sandi Breckenridge from Montana "

"My name is Cathie Longstreth and I was the grandmother to Duane E. Longstreth, killed in Baghdad on August 7, 2003. I am also a member of the "Bridge People" of Outpost 122. The members of the Bridge Team rally at Outpost 122 (the exit 122 off I 5) every Saturday in an effort to support the troops of Ft. Lewis, McCord AFB and Camp Murray (Washington State National Guard). We have the honor of greeting hundreds of military members and their families every week. The response from the troops is heart warming and welcomed .

I am writing this message to the other families in Washington State that have also lost a family member while serving our country, since September 11, 2001. My family would like to display a picture of the fallen hero, with the name and possibly the date of death, on the bridge while we are rallying. It is intended to honor them for the sacrifice they made but will not be used by us as a personal political statement. We hesitated to replicate the pictures we find on the many web sites without the express permission of the surviving family, as we have had our own experience with the media attempting to use our loss to support their political position.

If you do not object to us using your loved ones picture, please email me with your permission at one of the email addresses below. If you have a special picture that you like us to use please email that as well, otherwise we will be using one of the pictures already posted on the web.

cathie longstreth of Tacoma, Wa.

"Family and friends of Michael,
May God watch over you through this difficult time. You are in my daily prayers. My brother Arnie (also a hero) knew your son and sends his deepest condolences."
Christina Luna of Phoenix, AZ

"Please excuse our typo, we meant no disrespect to Michael"
Dan and Meg Manninen of San Antonio, Texas

"To Michael's Family:
There are no words that can express our deep sorrow for your loss. May God bless you and your family as Joshua watches over you all."
Dan and Meg Manninen of San Antonio, Texas

"Rest in Peace Brave Solider. You are the bright shining star in the sky we see everynight when we look up to heaven."
The Taylors USMC of NC

"To the family we thank you and your soldier for their service to this country, and to Iraq. How blessed we are to have soldiers who are willing to put there lives on the line in the name of "freedom". I have a son in the Army as well, and I cry every time I see we loose one of our children, husbands, mothers,wives sisters, and brothers. God Bless you for your sacrifice. May God be with you in this most difficult time."
Family of SPC Mitchell R. Warriner-Hansen of Hillsboro, Oregon"
Family of SPC Mitchell R. Warriner-Hansen of Hillsboro, Oregon

"Thank you Michael Merila, you will not be forgotten. Your bravery goes beyond words. I want to express my deepest gratitude for your sacrifice. To the family and friends, my prayers and deep condolences in your loss. May God strengthen you from knowing that fellow Americans and people around the world care about you and grieve with you in your loss. God bless you all. A very appreciative fellow American,"
Leo Titus of Grayslake, Illinios

"To the family and friends of Spc. Michael Merila:
May God's grace be with you during your time of grief. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and we feel your loss and share in your sorrow. Bless Michael for the sacrifice he has made to make a better life for the rest of us."
The Ford Family of Wells, Nevada

"To the family and friends of Spc. Michael Merila:
I am saddened by the loss of your loved one. He will always be remembered as a hero for fighting for freedom. I hope that this website will be a source of comfort and encouragement for you during this difficult time, and in the future as you recall the memories of Michael, who continues to live on in your heart."
Tim Rivera of Powder Springs, Georgia

Honor them by remembering... Freedom - is their gift to us But his soul goes marching on