Ask any combat veteran, and you’ll probably get the same answer to the question, “Who’s the guy you depend on most?” Marines can always rely on each other, regardless of rank, but the bedrock of the Marine Corps are the senior staff non-commissioned officers. Throughout the more than 231 years of Marine Corps history, those senior sergeants/SNCO’s have always risen to the challenges of peace and war.
Sgt. Major Brad Kasal’s story — from growing up in small Afton, Iowa, to his heroism on the streets of Fallujah, Iraq — is extraordinary even by Marine standards. The drive, determination, and total dedication to his men at the risk of his own life are the hallmarks of the true Marine combat warrior. Brad Kasal’s story should be required reading for two kinds of people: all new second lieutenants, as a primer to show them the role senior non-coms perform in an infantry unit in combat, and all those who wish to learn the quality of the American fighting man.
A combat veteran with 20 years’ experience even before Iraq, Kasal — as our nation has come to expect of every Marine — has answered the call of duty time and again. In the first Gulf War in 1991, he shook off wounds for which lesser men would have quit fighting. And when the time came to deploy again, he went to Iraq, came home after one long tour of duty and went back to Iraq.
In My Men Are My Heroes, we see Kasal in the 2003 invasion and then again in the 2004 battle for the terrorist stronghold of Fallujah. He and his men served bravely, fighting not for glory, the flag or for anyone as much as for the Marines fighting at their side. Kilo Company Marines in Iraq lived the Corps’ motto: Semper Fidelis, faithful to each other and to the nation that sent them against our enemies. [See “Remember Our Unsung Heroes,” by James Roberts, HUMAN EVENTS cover story, Sept. 11, 2006.]
Brad Kasal didn’t have to accept that second tour in Iraq. He could have retired honorably and no one would have questioned him. But like so many first sergeants before him, he felt duty-bound to be there with the Marines he had trained, lived and fought with for so long — which is how he found himself, on that miserable, dusty street in Fallujah in November 2004.
It’s not possible to encapsulate in this brief book review the thoughts, actions and extraordinary bravery of Kasal and the Marines he led into a terrorist-held house that day. You have to read it all to even begin to appreciate what it must have been like to shoot it out with the insurgents for 40 minutes, sometimes at arm’s length. The cover photo gives you a hint: It shows Kasal being helped out of the house by two other Marines, bleeding from what proved to be almost four dozen bullet and shrapnel wounds, while still holding his 9mm pistol.
The same drive, determination and dedication Kasal exhibited in combat he now shows again in his long, painful recuperation and rehabilitation from his wounds. As he always has, Brad Kasal shows he is a “can do” guy. For him, being able to perform his new duties as a newly promoted sergeant major is the most important goal. As we extend to him our heartfelt wish that he makes a full recovery and can some day return to duty, we should all realize that Brad Kasal is not just doing it for himself, but for every other Marine.