At the end of the November 10 newscast, Rather asked: "Now, if I may, with your indulgence, this is personal."
Up on screen, CBS displayed a picture, by Los Angeles Times photographer Luis Sinco, of a Marine in Fallujah with dirt of his face, blood on his nose and a cigarette hanging from his mouth.
As the photo enlarged and
CBS zoomed in, Rather asserted: "The picture, did you see it? The best
war photograph of recent years is in many newspapers today, front page
in some. Taken by Luis Sinco of the Los Angeles Times, it is this
close-up of a U.S. Marine on the front lines of Fallujah. He is tired,
dirty and bloodied, dragging on that cigarette, eyes narrowed and
alert, not with the thousand-yard stare of a dazed infantryman so
familiar to all who have seen combat firsthand up close. No, this is a
warrior with his eyes on the far horizon, scanning for danger. See it,
study it, absorb it, think about it. Then take a deep breath of pride.
And if your eyes don't dampen, you're a better man or woman than I.
Where such men come from and what will happen to our country when they
cease to come, we can wonder with worry. But for now, we have them, and
they are there in that brown hell known as Iraq. Whatever you may think
of the war, they went for the right reason [Rather back on screen in
place of the picture]: They loved their country. May these men and
women of honor, valor, integrity and loyalty know that they, their
deeds and their sacrifices are not forgotten. That can be validated by
every schoolchild in America being shown the picture and having it
explained to them, lest they, and we, forget. For the CBS Evening News,
Dan Rather reporting. Good night."
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” George Orwell
holding his 9mm Beretta, a seriously injured First Sgt. Brad Kasal is
from a Fallujah house on Nov. 13, 2004, after killing several Iraqi insurgents and
with his own body shielding a fellow Marine from a grenade blast (Photo by Lucian Read/WorldPictureNews).
holding his 9mm Beretta, a seriously injured First Sgt. Brad Kasal is
Kasal may never join the pantheon of Marine Corps legends with colorful names like “Manila John” Basilone, or “Ol’ Gimlet Eye” Smedley Darlington Butler, who won two Medals of Honor, or Master Gunnery Sergeant Leland “Lou” Diamond, who sported a non-regulation goatee and once raised chickens behind his barracks. But he is every bit in their league.
During his three tours of duty in Iraq and Kuwait, Kasal has been wounded multiple times, including being shot seven times, peppered with grenade fragments on several occasions, and wounded by shrapnel during the Iraqi invasion in 2003 and again last August during the Marines’ deadly street fights against Iraqi insurgents in the Sunni Triangle.
According to highly
placed Marine Corps sources, Kasal and another Marine who was killed in
action at Fallujah, may become the first Marine Corps recipients of the
Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. Kasal declined any comment on the
report and Capt. Daniel J. McSweeney, a spokesman at Marine Corps
“I appreciate your interest in this issue and that the story and photo speak volumes about the courage and commitment of our deployed Marines,” McSweeney said Thursday. “I'm sorry to reinforce that CMC (Commandant, Marine Corps) and other members of HQMC do not offer comments of any kind on awards that are working their way through the system.”
Kasal joined the Marine Corps in
1984 from rural
“I always wanted to be a Marine, to see the world and make a difference,” Kasal said in an interview this week.
Linda Haner, the deputy
city clerk of
Haner said the whole
town is proud of Kasal and all his brothers who served in the armed
Jeff is a retired Army paratrooper who fought in Desert Storm with the
82nd Airborne and now works in
could see all the yellow ribbons and all the red, white and blue
ribbons you would understand about this place. People around here are
proud of the boys in the service and what they are doing,” Haner added.
Currently Kasal isn’t doing too much except recovering. The 38-year-old bachelor is confined to a wheelchair while he endures a painful medical procedure to put his right leg back together. His lower leg is connected to a metal device called a halo brace that is full of pins and screws that doctors manipulate each day to stretch his battered lower leg a millimeter at a time, trying to extend it to the length it used to be before an insurgent blew it in half with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
“They turn the screws
so many notches a day,” he explained matter-of-factly from his home in
Despite his terrible
wounds, Kasal has no regrets. He has seen plenty of the world and made
a world of difference to a lot of young Marines placed in his charge
during three combat tours in the
“I believe in leading from the front,” Kasal explained. “It eases their [young Marines] minds and concerns to see me up their with them. That is where I belong.”
His father Gerald, a retired farmer and six-year veteran of the Iowa Army National Guard in the 1950s and early 1960s, said Brad was a great kid who never posed any problems except his propensity for fighting the boys from an adjacent town who seemed to take a pleasure in beating up the boys from Afton – a practice that came to an abrupt end when Brad and his brothers beat the hell out of some of them.
Brad and his brothers showed up a few times, they quit thinking they
could beat up the boys from
the reason for his bravery and resolve, Kasal displayed it in the
proudest tradition of the Marine Corps on
moving down the street, clearing buildings,” Kasal recounted. “A Marine
came out wounded from a building and said there were three more wounded
Marines trapped in there with a bunch of bad guys (insurgents). As we
entered, we noticed several dead Iraqis on the floor and one of our
Kasal said there was no question of what to do. “If I was a general I would still think my job was to get the wounded Marines out of there,” he said. “So we went in to get them.”
As soon as he entered the two-story stucco and brick building, Kasal found himself in mortal combat. It was fighting to the death, and there was no quarter expected or given, Kasal said.
“An Iraqi pointed an AK-47 at me and I moved back. He fired and missed. I shot and killed him. I put my barrel up against his chest and pulled the trigger over and over until he went down. Then I looked around the wall and put two into his forehead to make sure he was dead.”
While Kasal and a young Pfc. Alexander Nicoll were taking out the insurgent behind the wall, another one with an AK hiding on the stairs to the second floor began firing at the Marines on full automatic. “That’s when I went down, along with one of my Marines (Nicoll). Then I noticed the hand grenade.”
It was a green pineapple grenade, Kasal said. It flew into the room out of nowhere and landed near the two downed men. Kasal now believes that other Marines who were watching their back left the room for reasons he still doesn’t know and an insurgent was able to somehow get behind him.
Kasal said his first instinct was to protect the young Marine lying bloody beside him. He covered the young man with his body and took the full brunt of shrapnel to his back when the grenade exploded. Kasal’s body armor and helmet protected his vital organs but the shrapnel penetrated the exposed portions of his shoulders, back, and legs, causing him to bleed profusely.
“I took my pressure bandage and put it on his leg,” Kasal remembered. “Then I tried to put Nicoll’s pressure bandage on a wound on his chest but it is very hard to get a flak jacket off a wounded man and I was bleeding and fading in and out.”
Nicoll survived the grenade blast and his previous bullet wounds but lost his right leg. “An artery was cut and they had to amputate his leg,” Kasal said. “I have seen him and talked to him several times since we got back to the States. He is doing OK.”
The grenade blast stunned Kasal. He floated in and out of consciousness. But in the back of his mind a voice kept telling him he had to stay alert or the Iraqis were going to come back and finish him and Nicoll off. “They weren’t going to let us live if they knew we were alive. It was kill or be killed,” he said.
Kasal wrestled his 9mm automatic out of its holster and lay on the floor waiting for help. It was thirty or forty minutes before other Marines arrived.
“That’s when I got shot in the butt,” Kasal recalled. “It was the shootout at the OK Corral – point-blank range. I was lying there shooting and somebody shot me through both cheeks. It smarted a bit.”
Kasal did not know the exact extent of his wounds until much later; all he knew was that he was badly hurt. He was floating in and out of consciousness, ultimately losing 60 percent of his blood before he was rescued. After first aid, Kasal and Nicoll were transported to a field hospital in
seven rounds; five in my right leg, one in my foot and one to the
buttocks area. When the grenade went off I got 30 to 40 pieces of
shrapnel in my back,” Kasal said he later discovered.
Doctors are still fighting to save his leg, Kasal said. By the time this story appears, he will be back at
Meanwhile Kasal experiences almost constant pain.
“I'm missing four and a half inches of the fibula and tibia bones,” he said. “They put that halo brace on my leg to try and make the bone grow together. But there’s no guarantee that will work.”
everything that has happened to him, Kasal still believes
“The insurgents are oppressing normal people,” Kasal said. “The press never reports the good things. When we open a school or fix a sewer, the things that make normal Iraqis happy, they never report it. There are plenty of Iraqis, thousands of them, who want to live normal lives. If we can help them it will be all right. The people just want peace and freedom.”
Editor Nathaniel R. “Nat” Helms is a