A Moment That Forever Changed A Soldier's Outlook

Throughout our show this Memorial Day weekend, we're hearing from members of the 182nd Infantry Regiment of the Army National Guard. In this installment, Spc. Michael Cella remembers a close call while on patrol.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Throughout today's show, we've heard from members of the 182nd Infantry Regiment. To mark this Memorial Day weekend, we have asked them to recall the most vivid memory from a year spent at war.

SPECIALIST MICHAEL CELLA: My name is Michael Cella - Specialist Cella - from the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

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CELLA: There was one time that we had gone out - this one really does sit with me more than anything else. We happened to be out on mission and I was in the gun that day. We happened to be going through a small town. And, as always, most of the people come out and they were falling behind the truck. My security element that was around the vehicle happened to be kind of pushed up in front, so I was stuck in the back alone. And there was a couple of calls out on the radio that there was a suspicious person. Now, prior to going out on the mission, the enemy's tactics and procedures in this area were to throw grenades inside of the turrets where the gunners were, try to blow up the vehicle from the inside. And the suspicious person was called out and I ended up tracking him. He's walking towards the rear of the truck. So now, I'm on the radio, hey, hey, you know, I got eyes on, I got eyes on. He's got something in his hand. He's got something in his hand. So, I withdrew my nine millimeter from my leg holster. I brought it up into the turret. I took aim in that direction. He started walking up again. He raised his hand. He bit down and it's kind of like a movie scene that you would see that you bit down, pull a pin on a grenade type of thing. As soon as I saw that, you know, I took my weapon off safe, took aim and he kind of threw his hand back, like if you were to take a swig of beer or a drink or a soda pop or whatever. And he looks up at me and he says you want some peanuts? It was an experience that I don't think I'll ever forget but my heart was pounding for about 45 minutes and that took me about two packs of cigarettes at the end of the day just to calm down from that whole thing. As you go through these experiences, you kind of start to see things in different light. You might not want to question every little thing that they're doing 'cause it might not always be suspicious, especially being up here in Massachusetts and Boston, being out on the road with - we have, I don't know how you put it, but drivers that are strong-minded and they whip in and out of cars. And, you know, you get that adrenaline rush and, yes, my heart starts pounding. And you just got to tell yourself to calm down a little bit and, you know, everything's not always the biggest issue. So, if you've ever been up here in Massachusetts you know what I'm talking about.

MARTIN: Specialist Michael Cella.

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MARTIN: This is NPR News.

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