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A soldier's story: Specialist talks about time in Afghanistan

Sunday, October 17, 2010

(Photo)
Specialist Justin Mercer of Bertrand holds a photo of his helmet damage after he was shot in the head in September while serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. The bullet skimmed his head, leaving a gash that was closed with five stitches.
(Michelle Felter, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Justin Mercer never thought he would serve in Afghanistan.

The 25-year-old Bertrand resident, who has achieved the rank of specialist, joined the U.S. Army in November 2005.

"Iraq was the hot zone there, and I joined knowing I would probably go there," said Mercer. As his father had also served in the Army, Mercer knew he always wanted to join, and did so after two years of classes at Southeast Missouri State University.

After completing Basic Training and Airborne School, Mercer was sent to his duty station at the National Training Center in California.

"That's typically a non-deployment assignment," said Mercer. "I didn't deploy, but I did a lot of work."

Although he signed an eight-year contract, Mercer was released from active duty and returned to Missouri in April 2009 -- never leaving U.S. soil. He was then assigned to the Individual Ready Reserves.

"I was home and ready to start my life," he said. But that only lasted a few moths, as he was called back as of Oct. 4.

"No one ever thinks they are going to get called back," he said. "And I had absolutely no idea what I was being called back for."

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