A legendary Marine who made a name for himself during the early years of the Iraq War is finally retiring after thirty-four years of faithful service to the Corps.
A hero of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Sergeant Major Bradley Kasal effectively closed the book on his prestigious career on May 18, when he handed over the reins of I Marine Expeditionary force to SGM James Porterfield in Camp Pendleton, California.
“I want every Marine and sailor to understand they enlisted for a reason and a purpose,” said Kasal in a command release. “That purpose was to do something better, to swear to support and defend the constitution, and to be a part of something greater. I ask the Marines and sailors to always be proud of that.
Kasal inadvertently became somewhat of an icon for the US fighting man after a photo was snapped of him being carried out from a Fallujah building in 2004, bloodied and gripping his weapon until the very end after he had shielded a wounded Marine from grenade shrapnel. After being evacuated, he refused medical aid until all other Marines were treated.
“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,” and award citation read. “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.”
Kasal lost four inches of bone in his right leg and underwent 21 surgeries to sufficiently heal from his wounds and return to duty. Still not completely healed Kasal will likely walk with a limp for the rest of his life.
Awarded the Navy Cross in 2006, Kasal was described by then-Lieutenant General Jim Mattis as “an example of combat leadership in action.”
The iconic photo -which was snapped by photographer Lucian Read- was re-created in the form of a statue, was unveiled outside of Pendleton’s Wounded Warrior Battalion in 2014.
“The monument is a symbol of camaraderie that’s important to Marines, not only in combat but in the healing process as well,” Robin Kelleher, president of Hope for the Warriors, which contributed to constructing the monument, said of the monument. “There’s a saying, ‘Never leave a Marine behind’, and I think the monument exemplifies that. It gives wounded warriors hope, and hope is important for them to be able to recover.”
According to the Marine Corps Times, Kasal was the I MEF Sergeant Major since 2015. A native of Marengo, Iowa, he is now in his early fifties and has no doubt earned every moment of peace and quiet he can get from here on out.
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