Across the editor's desk: May-June 2007
Farm-reared youths have earned a high reputation for serving their country in the military. Leaders greatly value the work ethic and attitude of farm kids.
As Americans, we owe a great debt to those who have served in the military. We respect and honor their time and sacrifice.
I have just finished reading a new book, My Men Are My Heroes. It is the story of Sgt. Maj. Brad Kasal, a 22-year career Marine and former farm boy from Afton, Iowa.
In May of last year, Kasal was awarded the Navy Cross, the naval service's second-highest decoration. Only 21 Navy Crosses have been awarded since the War on Terror began in 2001.
Kasal was cited for "extraordinary heroism" while serving in Iraq on November 13, 2004. He was shot seven times by insurgents while helping rescue three Marines pinned down in an enemy-held house in Fallujah. He also received more than 40 shrapnel wounds as he rolled on top of another wounded Marine to protect him from a grenade blast.
"In all honesty I thought I was going to bleed to death from severe wounds anyway," Kasal says.
"While some may call this heroic, I just call it loyalty," he continues. "He would have done the same for me. It's called being a Marine, as we're all brothers and family. The true heroes that day were Sgt. Robert Mitchells, Cpls. Schaeffer and Marquez, Pvt. Justin Boswoods, and the men who fought to get us out of the building, now called the House of Hell. To all Service members who consistently put themselves into harm's way for the price of freedom, I will forever be indebted. They are fine professionals," he says.
Kasal credits the hard outdoor work and structured schedule of a family dairy farm with helping prepare him for life as a Marine.
"My family and farm background helped immensely and really shaped my sense of values," he says.
While continuing to recover from his wounds, Kasal now helps lead Marine Corps recruiting in three Midwest states. Recruiters like to meet interested farm kids.
"A large majority of applicants from farms are more qualified," Kasal says. "They have a good work ethic, they have no drug or other legal problems in their background, and they do good in school."
His father and four brothers all served in the military. Kasal listened to recruiters from all military branches who came to his school to talk about joining the service. "The Marine recruiter came out in his dress blues and said that most of us weren't good enough to be in his Marine Corps," he says. "He didn't promise us anything except we would be the best-trained warriors in the world. I decided right then I wanted to serve with the best."
Kasal's heart is with the men in battle. He wants to return to infantry duty. "Every time I help catch a terrorist, I have just saved another person's life. And when I hand out food and supplies, I am providing an important necessity," he says.
"It is my wish that the American media would show the true and complete story of what is really going on overseas, telling the story of how our service members are performing selfless acts of heroism and helping to bring freedom and a better way of life to a country," Kasal says.