Many heroes emerged from the fighting in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004, but none more noteworthy than First Sergeant Brad Kasal. On November 13, 2004, First Sergeant Kasal heard enemy gunfire to his front and learned that Marines were pinned down inside a structure. He joined a squad of Marines entering the structure to rescue the Marines inside. He eliminated an insurgent fighter upon entering the first room. While moving towards a wounded Marine, First Sergeant Kasal and another Marine were severely wounded. The insurgents then threw hand grenades into the room attempting to kill the Marines. First Sergeant Kasal rolled on top of the other Marine to shield him from the shrapnel with his body.
When offered medical attention and extraction, Kasal refused until the other wounded Marines were taken care of first. He shouted encouragement to his fellow Marines as they cleared the structure of the insurgents. With seven bullet wounds, over 43 pieces of shrapnel and his leg nearly severed he was carried out of the structure by two Marines. Bleeding profusely, with his pistol in one hand and his Ka-Bar in his other hand, a freelance photographer, Lucian Read captured that moment in time with an iconic photograph. For his bravery, leadership and dedication to duty, First Sergeant Kasal was awarded the Navy Cross in 2006.
While Kasal was always an inspiration for his Marines he showed true grit returning to duty after undergoing numerous operations. When doctors recommended that he accept amputation of his leg and retire, Kasal showed his toughness and personal courage keeping his leg and returning to service within the Marine Corps.
Kasal was promoted to Sergeant Major and served in a number of positions to include his last command as Sergeant Major of I MEF. In 2012, Nathaniel Helms wrote, “My Men are My Heroes: The Brad Kasal Story” which provided insight into this hard charging grunt. The book follows Kasal’s days growing up in Afton, Iowa, to joining the Marine Corps, to Fallujah, and his fighting for life and recovery. One learns the character of this Marine.
Sergeant Major Kasal is a Marine’s Marine. Humble, courageous and a leader of warriors. For thirty-four years he served his country until his retirement last week. Our country owes warriors like Sergeant Major Kasal so much for their service. There are so many silent but legendary leaders that the social media generation never learns about. In this age of self-adulation and “likes” Sgt. Major Kasal is a leader who puts his men first and never worries about tweets, likes or recognition. He is a true Marine in the spirit of John Basilone, “Hashmark” Johnson, and Chesty Puller. We should all give thanks that our country has great leaders like Sgt. Major Brad Kasal who served their country and trained that next generation of leaders. And as Sgt. Major Kasal once said, “thank you for doing what many would not.” Semper Fidelis!