A lot of people will remember this picture. It’s become one of the iconic pictures of the war.
I remember because I noticed that the Marine, though wounded and bleeding, maintained control of his weapon and still had trigger discipline.
I found who the wounded Marine is. He is 1st Sgt. Bradley Kasal. On November 13th, 2004, during the battle for Fallujah, he led a squad of Marines into an enemy occupied house to rescue some trapped Marines. It was a killing zone, a trap. He and the other Marines knew that when they entered the building, but there were Marines trapped inside, so they went. He was shot seven times and had pieces of shrapnel from a grenade explosion embedded in his body. A body he used to deliberately shield another wounded Marine from that blast. Badly wounded, he had lost 60% of his blood volume before he reached help. It took him months to walk again. He came back to active duty and has been promoted to Sgt. Major.
Like a long line of Marines before him, he went through the training, he served for years, he slowly climbed the ranks, and then one day in Fallujah, he did what he saw as his duty, and the rest of us got a chance to know what sort of man he is. The Navy Cross has honor because Sgt. Kasal wears it, not the other way around. That’s what a Navy Cross means. The Navy Cross does not make Sgt. Major Kasal heroic. He is heroic. He not alone. Here is a list, and the accompanying citations, for all the recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Air Force Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross since 9/11.
I’ll quote his.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
–Citation for the Navy Cross awarded to Sgt. Major Bradley Kasal