On Nov. 13, 2004, while serving as the company first sergeant for Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Kasal accompanied members of 1st Section, Combined Anti-Armor Platoon, during the Battle of Fallujah. Kasal and another Marine came under heavy rifle fire 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 then refused medical attention and evacuation until the other Marines were attended to. Although his wounds were severe, Kasal continued to direct Marines and shout encouragement until the building was clear. On May 1, 2006, Kasal was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on that fateful day.
Marines magazine: Why did you decide to join the Marine Corps?
SGT. MAJ. KASAL: I came from a military family. However, they all served in the Army. I wanted to serve in order to make a difference and be a part of the solution. I chose the Marine Corps because I wanted the best and because of its reputation as the “first to fight.” It’s a brotherhood.
How many years have you been in?
What was your original MOS?
0351, anti-tank assaultman.
How did your early experiences in the Corps shape your career?
Fortunately, I was blessed with a few NCOs (noncomissioned officers) who were professional leaders and helped show me the right way to do things. And with senior enlisted leaders and officers who gave me the battlespace and the patience to make mistakes and learn from them. Trust me, I’ve made many.
In 2004, you participated in the Battle of Fallujah and a photo of you during that operation has graced walls Corpswide. How does it feel to know your actions and that image of you continues to inspire this generation of Marines?
Honestly, I love motivating and inspiring Marines. That’s what leaders do. However, I don’t like to be revered or looked at as a hero. I was a Marine amongst many heroes.
What has been the most challenging aspect of recovering from the injuries you received in November 2004?
There’s been many. But, the greatest was what I call the fear of the unknown. For a long time it was suggested to amputate my right leg. However, out of stubbornness I said “No, I’m keeping it.” But the fear of the unknown was that I had medical professionals telling me to amputate, that I’d never walk again otherwise. I never knew if my battle to keep it would work out in the end, or if the doctors would end up being correct. That’s a tremendous emotional burden to carry for over a year.
Was there anything you had to tell yourself to help you walk into the “House of Hell”?
Yes, there were three Marines down and wounded and they needed help. Pretty simple.
What compels you to continue serving?
Marines. Gotta love Marines. Where else can you get paid to be around such great Americans?
What do you enjoy most about leading Marines?
Making a difference. To see that young Marine who you just helped become better. How could you not want to teach somebody something new every day and watch them grow?
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned that you feel is important for young Marines to know?
Be proud of who you are and what you represent. America expects more from her Marines as warriors on the battlefield and as ladies and gentlemen off of it. It’s a privilege and an honor to serve beside your fellow Marines and never take that for granted as someday in the blink of an eye it could be over.
You have been hailed a modern day hero, who do you emulate?
Simple, the Marines I’ve served with. I’m a sergeant major today because of the men I’ve served with – the leaders who groomed me and gave me opportunities, and the young Marines who made me look good every day. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am.
What are your plans for the future? To just do the best I can for the Marines of the School of Infantry and enjoy the time while I have it.
What’s your favorite MRE?
Enchiladas. Hands down.
If you crank some tunes while you work out, who do you listen to?
I’m a country man. Gotta love George Strait.
What is your most favorite place the Corps has taken you?
Thailand and the Philippines. For those who have been there, how could you not love Subic Bay, Phuket, and Pattaya Beach?