View Full Version : Marine Hero to Be Decorated for His Bravery

05-01-06, 06:03 AM
Marine Hero to Be Decorated for His Bravery
First Sgt. Brad Kasal was badly injured but saved several lives in a firefight with insurgents in Iraq.
By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer
May 1, 2006

CAMP PENDLETON — It has become one of the iconic pictures of the war in Iraq: blood-soaked Marine 1st Sgt. Brad Kasal, grim-faced and still clutching his service pistol, being helped from a firefight by two younger Marines.

Although wounded by seven AK-47 rounds and hit by more than 40 pieces of hot shrapnel from a grenade, Kasal refused to quit fighting and is credited with saving the lives of several Marines during the U.S. assault on insurgent strongholds in Fallouja in November 2004.

"He was hurt bad, but for the most part, he was more worried about his Marines than himself," said then-Cpl. R.J. Mitchell, one of the Marines involved in the firefight in a two-story stucco house.

Kasal has undergone 21 surgeries and months of painful rehabilitation to repair his injuries and attempt to save his right leg.

Today, the 39-year-old Iowa native will be promoted to sergeant major, the highest enlisted rank in the Marine Corps, and receive the Navy Cross for combat bravery, second only to the Medal of Honor. Only nine others have received the Navy Cross for service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, said Kasal "set an example for future generations of combat leaders to emulate."

The picture, taken by Lucian Read, a photographer for World Picture News who was embedded with the Marines, has been widely reprinted. It was used on the back cover of "No True Glory," an account of the fight for Fallouja by Bing West, the premier historian of Marines in combat in Iraq.

Kasal, in his second tour in Iraq, was with the Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, during the assault. At the height of the fighting Nov. 13, Marines were going door to door. Insurgents were often waiting upstairs to rain down AK-47 fire and grenades.

When Kasal learned that three Marines were pinned down in one house, he and other Marines went to their aid.

Once inside the house, Kasal barked orders to younger Marines to cover vantage spots where insurgents might be hiding. He turned into one room and immediately ran into an insurgent who cried out in Arabic. The two exchanged gunfire; the insurgent missed and Kasal killed him.

Other insurgents fired at the Marines from upstairs, hitting Kasal and others. Kasal fought his way to a wounded Marine and used a tourniquet on his leg to keep him from bleeding to death. When he spotted an insurgent's grenade, he sheltered the wounded Marine with his body to protect him from the blast.

Kasal refused medical attention until other Marines were helped and made sure Marines in the street knew there were Marines inside so none would be hit by so-called friendly fire.

"Although severely wounded himself, he shouted encouragement to his fellow Marines," the Navy Cross citation states. By the time he was evacuated, Kasal had lost about 60% of his blood and was barely conscious.

Marines who knew Kasal before the fight were not surprised at his actions. "He led by example — always," said Mitchell, 26, who was wounded for the fourth time during the fight and is now medically retired from the Marine Corps and studying to be a motorcycle mechanic in Phoenix.

Kasal said the picture and the acclaim it has brought him should not overshadow the actions of other Marines in the same fight. "That house was full of heroes," he said.

Doctors initially told Kasal that his right leg below the knee was so badly mangled it might not be saved, and that subjecting himself to surgeries and rehabilitation could prove futile. Four inches of bone had been shot away.

Kasal opted against amputation, knowing that it would mean the end of his career in the Marines. "I decided to gut it out and work through the pain," he said. "I wanted to do whatever was needed to keep it going."

Six days a week, he does two to four hours of rehabilitation. Recently, the onetime high school wrestler and football player was able to run for the first time since Fallouja. "It wasn't pretty, but I was able to do it," he said.

Kasal, who is single, has been assigned to a recruiting station in Des Moines. He did three years as a recruiter in the 1990s in Minnesota, the only stretch in his 21 years in the Marine Corps in which he has not been assigned to an infantry company.

His goal is to get strong enough to return to the infantry and go back to Iraq. "We started it; we need to finish it," he said. "I believe in what we're doing. I'd go back in a heartbeat."

05-01-06, 01:40 PM
Brad Kasal - Someone You Should Know Radio Pundit Review - WRKO 680AM - Boston. <br />
Promoted, Recommended, and Yet Humble, SGTMAJ Kasal Updates Us <br />
Black Five <br />
<br />
We discussed First Sergeant Brad Kasal...

05-01-06, 03:36 PM
Pendleton Marine earns Navy Cross for valor in Iraq

10:01 a.m. May 1, 2006

CAMP PENDLETON – A Camp Pendleton-based Marine will receive the naval service's second-highest award Monday for valor displayed during an insurgent attack in Iraq, when, badly wounded, he saved another Marine's life.

Marine 1st Sgt. Bradley Kasal will receive the Navy Cross and be promoted to the rank of sergeant major, the highest enlisted rank in the Marine Corps, Marine officials said.

Kasal had been wounded by shrapnel and bullets during fighting in Fallujah – losing 60 percent of his blood – when he saved another Marine's life by shielding him from an exploding grenade, base officials said.

Kasal, who suffered 40 shrapnel wounds, served as first sergeant, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, according to base officials.

Kasal, a 39-year-old Afton, Iowa, native, is recovering from his wounds and is scheduled to transfer to Des Moines to serve at a recruiting station, base officials said.

The Navy Cross is the naval service's second-highest award. So far, only nine other Navy Cross Medals have been awarded during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to base officials.


05-01-06, 05:14 PM
Go SGTMAJ Bradley Kasal

05-01-06, 09:26 PM
DES MOINES, Iowa -- An Iowa Marine received one of the military's top honors for his heroism in Iraq.

First Sgt. Brad Kasal, 39, received the Navy Cross, one of the nation's highest military awards, at special ceremony held in Camp Pendleton, Calif., for his bravery in Fallujah, Iraq.

Kasal was promoted to sergeant major, the highest enlisted rank in the U.S. Marine Corps. He received the awards just the day after he lost his father to cancer.

After speaking with Kasal as he recovered at his home near Camp Pendleton one year ago, NewsChannel 8 also spoke with his father, Gerald Kasal, in Afton.

"In one hand I am worried about him, but he's, he's just more than the average guy, I guess. Very proud of the guy," Gerald Kasal said in May 2005.

On Monday in Iowa, family members watched the long-anticipated ceremony through an Iowa Communications Network fiber optic video link.

Kasal's mother watched from Cedar Rapids, and two of his brothers watch from Southwestern Community College in Creston.

"It's nice that it's over for him. It's just bad timing, you know, with my dad," said Kasal's brother, Kelly Kasal.

Kasal's father was supposed to be in the room to watch the ceremony, but he died of terminal cancer on Sunday.

The brothers and their mother got a much-needed lift when they talked with each other through the video link.

"It was pretty incredible to see, because it's something that he's deserved for a long time. The recognition of all the time and hard work that he's put in the Marine Corps," Kelly Kasal said.

"I'd do it a thousand times over, because I love the Marines," Kasal said.

Kasal will be back in Iowa Tuesday to be with his family and prepare for his father's funeral.

Kasal was seriously wounded in November 2004.

Kasal was shot seven times while trying to rescue three fellow Marines under heavy fire in Falluja h, Iraq. He even rolled on top of a Marine to save him from an exploding hand grenade.

A badly wounded Kasal endured excruciating pain and nearly two-dozen surgeries.

Against all odds, he's walking again and one of his many goals is to run again, which he's already trying very hard to do.The Marines are transferring him to central Iowa.

In a few weeks, he'll start his new assignment as a Marine recruiter.

05-01-06, 09:27 PM
The reason why I am so proud to be a Marine!

05-01-06, 09:47 PM
Congratulations 1stSgt Kasal! Been a long time coming.

On another note, what does it take for Congress to bestow a Marine the Medal of Honor? :mad:

05-01-06, 11:10 PM
Congrats SgtMaj Kasal!!!

I agree with yellowwing, what does it take for Congress to bestow a Marine with the Medal of Honor?

05-02-06, 08:31 AM
Grief tinges Marine's award
Iowa native Sgt. Maj. Brad Kasal gets the Navy Cross a day after his father dies.


May 2, 2006

Creston, Ia. — Palm trees and scores of Marines in tan uniforms were in the background Monday as Sgt. Maj. Brad Kasal, an Iowa native, was awarded the Navy Cross for combat heroism in Iraq at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

At Southwestern Community College here, Kasal's brothers, Kevin and Kelly, and other friends and supporters watched the ceremony on a live video hookup via the Iowa Communications Network. They had bittersweet feelings because of the death of their father, Gerald Kasal, 69, just one day earlier following a long battle with cancer.

"I'm very proud of Brad, but I really wish my dad could have been here to see this. He really wanted to be here," said Kevin Kasal, 33, of Des Moines.

The video link had been set up in advance with the knowledge that Gerald Kasal was too weak to travel to California. The Marine's mother, Myrna Kasal, who lives near Anamosa, watched on a video hookup at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. Another brother, Randy Kasal of Des Moines, was at Camp Pendleton on Monday.

Maj. Gen. Michael Lehnert, commander of Marine Corps installations on the West Coast, paid tribute to the elder Kasal after he presented one of the nation's highest military awards to the Iowa Marine, who grew up on a farm near Afton in southern Iowa.

The younger Kasal, 39, earned the Navy Cross for leading a mission in Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 13, 2004, to rescue wounded Marines from an insurgent-held house. He was shot seven times by an enemy fighter armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and received more than 40 shrapnel wounds from a grenade explosion as he bear-hugged a younger Marine to protect him.

"This is one of the sons of Afton, Iowa, and this is one of our heroes," Lehnert said.

"We do a pretty good job of making Marines, but you have to start with pretty good material as well," the general added. He said he knew that the sergeant major's father was present in spirit Monday.

"I know that he is the kind of man who made the Marine that you see before you today. So for your dad, Sergeant Major, semper fidelis, and thank you, wherever you are," Lehnert said. "Semper fidelis" is the Marine Corps motto, which means, "always faithful."

Monday's ceremony was the highlight of a career in the Marine Corps that began after Kasal graduated in 1984 from East Union High School. He held the rank of first sergeant before receiving his sergeant major stripes Monday. He also re-enlisted Monday for an additional three years in the Marines, and he will report later this month for recruiting duty in Des Moines.

Lehnert told the crowd at Monday's event that the term "hero" is too often used.

"Ladies and gentleman, this is a true American hero," he said of Kasal. "He's not going to tell you he is a hero, but he is a genuine hero."

The general described the insurgent-held structure in Fallujah as "the house of hell. It was set up for one purpose: to kill United States Marines."

Kasal spoke briefly after being awarded the Navy Cross, saying it was difficult for him to contain his emotions, considering the circumstances.

He noted that a year ago doctors told him after surgery that his right leg - which was shattered by the insurgent's bullets - couldn't be salvaged and should be amputated. But he refused to accept that advice, and he walked Monday without a cane. Just last week, he said, he ran 1miles, and his goal is to attain the highest score possible on the Marine Corps physical fitness test.

He said it's been a dream to achieve the rank of sergeant major. "To the younger Marines, I want to say, 'Anything is possible.' "

Kasal said people have asked why a Marine first sergeant - a senior enlisted rank - was leading such a dangerous rescue mission into an insurgent-held house.

"When I heard there were wounded Marines in that house, it was just the right thing to do," he said. "I would do it a thousand times again."


05-17-06, 03:54 PM
And Then There Were Twelve
12th in a Series

By Matthew Dodd

"I thought for sure I was going to bleed out ... might as well let one of us live."

That thought process led one Marine to use his own compression bandage on a fellow wounded Marine during an intense, hour-plus, close-quarters firefight in a Fallujah, Iraq house that was dubbed the "House of Hell" by Marines who knew what happened there in Nov 2004. That same Marine's actions before and after his life-or-death decision led to him becoming the Nation's twelfth Navy Cross hero in our current war as detailed in his citation below...

"The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the NAVY CROSS to First Sergeant Bradley A. Kasal, United States Marine Corps for service as set forth in the following citation:

For extraordinary heroism while serving as First Sergeant, Weapons Company, 3d Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 13 November 2004."

Let me take a few moments to share my experiences as a retired Marine officer with infantry first sergeants and weapons companies...

The first sergeant is an E-8, and the senior enlisted Marine in the rifle and weapons companies of a Marine infantry battalion. In that position, he is the commander's advisor on all personnel, disciplinary, and administrative activities affecting their Marines. He is also the senior mentor to all enlisted Marines, the primary monitor of the unit's morale, and often a trusted confidant of the junior officers. First sergeants are considered to be a special duty position, so any first sergeant with any military occupational specialty can be assigned to an infantry unit. In my infantry battalion days, two out of my three first sergeants were definitely non-infantry (motor transportation and administration), and the third one was infantry as a junior Marine before doing a lateral move into another (non-infantry) specialty. In my days, a career infantry first sergeant in an infantry battalion was not as common as I had expected. I am not sure how common an occurrence it is today.

Weapons companies are unique and colorful parts of an infantry battalion. Made up of grunts with special skills to employ the battalion's organic heavy infantry weapons (81 millimeter (mm) mortars, the .50 caliber and 40mm automatic grenade launcher heavy machine-guns, and the Javelin and Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) anti-armor missiles), these units are often given missions to support the entire battalion's operations or they are broken up and attached to the rifle companies to support their operations. These units can be given very independent missions in direct support of the battalion, and they can also be task-organized into new weapons company subordinate units (i.e. heavy machine-guns and anti-armor platoons to form combined anti-armor teams (CAAT), etc.) or other battalion units.

With that background about first sergeants and weapons companies of a Marine infantry battalion, Kasal's citation continues...

"First Sergeant Kasal was assisting 1st Section, Combined Anti-Armor Platoon as they provided a traveling over watch for 3d Platoon when he heard a large volume of fire erupt to his immediate front, shortly followed by Marines rapidly exiting a structure. When First Sergeant Kasal learned that Marines were pinned down inside the house by an unknown number of enemy personnel, he joined a squad making entry to clear the structure and rescue the Marines inside."

Each of these two sentences contains a word that speaks volumes about what made 1stSgt Kasal so special: "assisting" and "joined." As the Weapons Company senior enlisted Marine, he could pretty much go wherever he wanted and do whatever he felt like doing. There is a fine line that must never be violated between senior Marines "assisting" and "joining" subordinate units, and senior Marines "hindering" and "accompanying" subordinate units. Only an experienced infantry first sergeant can "assist" a CAAT and "join" a squad. Kasal was a respected and experienced first sergeant.

Notice the citation did not say that Kasal "took over" or "led" those subordinate units. In essence, as a senior leader, he put himself where his combat instincts told him he would be needed, and where his leadership could do the most good for his subordinates. Kasal's actions imply a great deal of self-awareness, self-confidence, and respect for his subordinate leaders, and they also reflect his subordinates' awareness, confidence, and respect for his leadership presence.

The citation goes on:

"He made entry into the first room, immediately encountering and eliminating an enemy insurgent, as he spotted a wounded Marine in the next room. While moving towards the wounded Marine, First Sergeant Kasal and another Marine came under heavy rifle fire from an elevated enemy firing position and were both severely wounded in the legs, immobilizing them. When insurgents threw grenades in an attempt to eliminate the wounded Marines, he rolled on top of his fellow Marine and absorbed the shrapnel with his own body."

To put things in perspective, this fight was being waged in a battlefield measured in mere feet. The combatants could see, hear, and, in some cases, feel each other. To hold your fire until you could see the whites of the enemy's eyes would mean almost certain death. Split-second decisions and actions separated the living from the dead and dying. Lying on the floor, immobilized, slowly bleeding to death from multiples of painful wounds, trying to save another warrior's life by using his body as a shield, Kasal was most definitely in the "House of Hell." It was about at this point when Kasal made his life-or-death decision to give up his own bandages for the sake of his injured junior Marine. The citation resumes...

"When First Sergeant Kasal was offered medical attention and extraction, he refused until the other Marines were given medical attention. Although severely wounded himself, he shouted encouragement to his fellow Marines as they continued to clear the structure."

Heroes somehow find ways to rise above the perils of their situations to show the sublime splendor of the human spirit. Kasal's citation concludes...

"By his bold leadership, wise judgment, and complete dedication to duty, First Sergeant Kasal reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service."

According to accounts, Kasal lost approximately 60 percent of his blood from more than 40 shrapnel wounds and seven 7.62 mm AK-47 gunshots in the "House of Hell."

Since then, "He's battled self-doubt at times and worried about his future.

He's endured 22 surgeries and has defied doctors' calls to amputate his mangled right leg." Just days before receiving his medal, Kasal ran 1.5 miles on a trail near his home in Oceanside, California, which is also the home of Camp Pendleton's I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Sadly, another deep pain for Kasal was that his father, Gerald Kasal, passed away after battling cancer the day before he received his medal. To Mr. Kasal: thank you for bringing us your son. May you rest in peace always.

At his medal (and also his promotion to Sergeant Major) ceremony on May 1, 2006, Kasal spoke to the assembled crowd that came to honor him. I believe he spoke for the Nation to all our Navy Cross heroes, past, present, and future, when he said:

"Words cannot say how much I appreciate you and love you to death."

Semper Fidelis, Sergeant Major Kasal.


05-17-06, 04:17 PM
Wow!!! I read the article about it in the Marine Times and it made very proud to be a United States Marine!! :banana:

05-22-06, 03:00 PM
We were discussing Sgt Maj Kasell on our website.
A very humble & brave man in the finest tradition of the Armed Forces.
Well Done that Man!!

05-24-06, 09:26 PM
Glad to see that he was given SgtMaj. Well deserved. It is Marines Like him that give the Corps its glory across this world. Congrats and Semper Fi.

The Medal in my Opinion is second best to the Honor of being a SgtMaj of Marines...

Born Invincible
05-24-06, 09:59 PM
Congratulations 1stSgt Kasal! Been a long time coming.

On another note, what does it take for Congress to bestow a Marine the Medal of Honor? :mad:

Apparently you have to either die or be in the Army...:thumbdown

I had the honor of serving with (not under) SgtMaj Kasal before OIF and he has, in my eyes, been a standout guy not unlike many other 1stSgt's I have encountered. The one thing about him was his ease to talk to. Some Marines put a little weight on their collars and become unaproachable but he stayed a Marines Marine through and through. I spoke to a group of Marines about him as soon as the original article in the MArine Corps times came out (previous to him receiving awards) because i love the story of moral courage that his story told. OOH RAH and Semper FI to SgtMaj K

3/1 Weapons Co. CAAT

06-02-06, 08:38 PM
I think it is BS that "now" Sgt Major Kasal didn't receive a Medal of Honor...I know that a large percentage of Marines in WWI,WWII, Korea, and Vietnam that earned the MOH had received the medals because they jumped on a grenade...but SgtMaj Kasal did that plus a ton more in the same day...So I say boo on Congress for that one...

06-04-06, 05:42 AM
Another name to add to a recruits prayers at night, Good night DAN DALY,SMEDLEY BUTLER, CHESTY PULLER where ever you are and sgtmaj Kasal, we know where you are.

06-04-06, 03:07 PM

06-04-06, 04:47 PM
Wasn't there a young sergeant, down at MCRD that was awarded the Navy Cross? Remeber reading about but I don't remember his name....


06-04-06, 09:31 PM
SGTMAJ Kasal,As close to being a GOD as a human can get.Long live our COUNTRY and our CORPS. He is one of the many reasons We are P-R-O-U-D to claim the title of UNTIED STATES MARINE.........................
Semp Fi

Born Invincible
06-04-06, 09:38 PM
^^ wow i wouldn't go that far...

06-18-06, 08:49 AM
Congratulations 1stSgt Kasal! Been a long time coming.

this is why I'll always be proud to be a Marine and support my fellows Marines to the end.

08-02-06, 11:13 AM
Congrats to the SgtMaj. That is a fine example of what it means to "Lead from the front".