The scholarship of this book impressed me. Nathaniel Helms, interviewed multiple former active duty Marines to in a stunning interplay that gives credibility to the brilliant story of Brad Kasal. Even during the flashbacks to Kasal’s childhood, Helms lists several individuals (such as the old principal at his school and his high school buddies) who are crucial in painting the picture of Brad Kasal.
Kasal is most well known for a picture snapped in the waning days of Operation Phantom Fury (the second assault on the city of Fallujah) where he is bloody mess, being carried by two Marines with a pistol in his right hand, finger off the trigger (as seen here). While I was at Marine Combat Training at the School of Infantry, SgtMaj Kasal (1st Sgt Kasal during Operation Enduring Freedom, or the Iraq War) was the SgtMaj for SOI. I was unaware of the history behind this man who obviously loves Marines. SgtMaj Kasal’s legacy will live on after a memorial was dedicated to Kasal in honor of this most famous picture and is now located outside the Hope and Cares Center in Camp LeJune, NC to motivate wounded warriors battling the realty of post-war injuries.
As I have said, this book is very well written. Helms takes you through the day to day of Operation Phantom Fury, making you feel as if you are on the ground with the Marines. He goes into much detail of what Phantom Fury consisted of and what the daily grind must have looked like to the Marines from an operational standpoint. But Kasal is known for his courage in the “hell house,” as the iconic picture says, and this is merely the crescendo of the entire book with just one and a half chapters dedicated to it. What you don’t know about Kasal is probably the grueling post-injury recovery process that Helms delves into a bit at the end of the book. This is probably the most disappointing aspect of the book. It seems as if the entire book is leading up to this one event that the information surrounding it pales in comparison.
At the end of the book, Brad Kasal writes a personal note to those who have picked it up and made it that far. He says,
“Throughout this entire ordeal from the time of being wounded until I was medically evacuated close to an hour later, and despite the multiple wounds and loss of blood, I never lost consciousness or quit my post while guarding that doorway. While some may call this heroic, I just it call loyalty. It was because I loved the Marine next to me that I was determined to do anything it took to keep him alive, even at my own risk. He would have done the same for me. It’s called being a Marine – we’re all brothers and a family. Many times since my injuries occurred, people have labeled me a hero. I beg to differ – I believe the true heroes that day were Sergeant Robert Mitchell, Corporal Schaeffer, and Corporal Marquez, Prive Justin Boswood, and the men of Kilo 3/1 and Weapons Co., 1st CAAT section, who fought to get us all out of the building now called the ‘house of hell.’ I will forever be indebted to these fine professionals.”
From a Christian worldview, this brings to mind John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Brad Kasal, whether he is a Christian or not, typifies the love Christ showed us for laying down his life on the cross for our behalf and we are in turn to show others.