WASHINGTON – A single picture can capture the brotherhood of arms amid the agony of combat. It shows two young Marines, holding up their badly wounded first sergeant, still clutching his weapon, during brutal house to house fighting in the 2004 battle for Fallujah.
"I received seven gunshot wounds and then grenade shrapnel fragmentation all over the entire body from a grenade," said Sgt. Bradley Kasal.
He charged into a building because he heard other Marines were trapped inside.
"There was about a dozen Marines that all rushed to that building to make a difference to save those Marines inside," Kasal said.
He won’t talk about he did in there, but the citation for the Navy Cross he received says he threw himself on top of another Marine to absorb the blast of a grenade.
"For the almost two hours I was inside of that room I knew without a doubt that somehow I would make it out," Kasal said. "I had that much trust and confidence in the Marines that were around me that served with me."
The photo inspired a sculpture by a father who lost his son in Iraq. In addition to the Navy Cross, Kasal wears a chest full of medals, including two Purple Hearts. He nearly lost a leg and suffered a traumatic brain injury, but he continued to serve until earlier this month when he retired after nearly 34 years in uniform.
"If you’re in it for the right reason, it’s always going to be difficult to say goodbye," Kasal said.
The hallmark of a great picture is that in the instant it was taken it tells you everything you need to know about what happened.
"There are exceptional men and women in this country who are willing to serve, who are willing to make sacrifices and who are willing to defend this great nation," Kasal said.
Kasal bet his life on those words. Fourteen years ago in Fallujah, having lost half his blood from his wounds, he refused medical attention until all the other wounded Marines were treated first.
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