ARTS & CULTURE

Soldier's Rihanna Cover Moves 'America's Got Talent' Audience To Tears (VIDEO)

06/19/2014 01:59 pm 13:59:35 | Updated Jun 19, 2014

Paul Ieti knows his way around a war zone -- and, apparently, an auditorium.

The U.S. soldier, who gained a wide following on YouTube after covering Etta James' "At Last" and Rihanna's "Stay" while stationed abroad in Afghanistan, brought his skills home earlier this week and blew everyone away on "America's Got Talent" on Tuesday.

Despite a briefly concerning start, wherein the judges thought Ieti may have missed his musical cue, the 21-year-old removed all doubt with his silky smooth cover of "Stay" and even moved audience members to tears. After the performance, the famously critical panel of judges had only positive things to say -- and several of them proceeded to walk on stage and give the soldier a hug.

"Well Mr. Ieti, you came out here very unassuming, and very nervous, and very shy," said judge Howie Mandel. "Then, all of a sudden, you started to sing. And a sound came out of you that nobody expected. You are amazing."

Ieti reacted to the unexpected encouragement on Twitter, writing, "That just really happened ... Thank you all for your support. I can't thank you all enough."

Watch the segment, above. Skip to 3:12 for the start of the song.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this entry misspelled Paul Ieti's name.

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