One Of The Bravest Marines In The Corps Just Retired, And He Gave Some Powerful Words Of Wisdom Before He Left

Justin Caruso
Senior Media Reporter

Marine Sergeant Major Bradley Kasal, spoke at a ceremony at Camp Pendleton, California, Thursday.

“These Marines left their home–all these great Americans left their home–signed up during a time of war and said, ‘I wanna do that.’ And we owe them so much gratitude. I am so, so proud. And they understand that in our profession there can be no second place. There can be no losing. Because the weight of our nation rests on their shoulders.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, behind me, to the right, to the left, is the big stick. The ones who do the work, who put in the sacrifice, everyday, to make sure that this country, this most beautiful, great nation, still stands,” he said, in reference to Teddy Roosevelt’s famous quote, “speak softly and carry a big stick.” He also commended his fellow Marines for their commitment and duty.

Kasal fought in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004 and was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions under fire in the infamous “Hell House.”

Kasal’s Navy Cross citation reads in part:



“When First Sergeant Kasal learned that Marines were pinned down inside the house by an unknown number of enemy personnel, he joined a squad making entry to clear the structure and rescue the Marines inside. He made entry into the first room, immediately encountering and eliminating an enemy insurgent, as he spotted a wounded Marine in the next room. While moving towards the wounded Marine, First Sergeant Kasal and another Marine came under heavy rifle fire from an elevated enemy firing position 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. When First Sergeant Kasal was offered medical attention and extraction, he refused until the other Marines were given medical attention.”

Full text of speech:

I’ve got to tell you–what an emotional day. In fact, all week to prepare for this I had to toughen myself up, so I watched re-runs of “Old Yeller,” and “Where The Red Fern Grows.”

And everyone from last, I don’t know how long, has always been asking me if I was excited for today? And, we’ll let’s see–I’m leaving the Marines and the sailors that I love, leaving the job that I love, leaving 53,000 family members. I haven’t slept in who knows how long. In fact, this morning, I finally said, heck, went and got up at four, went to the only Starbucks I knew that was open, got a couple cups of coffee, well okay, four cups of coffee, and just came into the office just to enjoy the command building one last time. And then to spend this morning with you all. So, I’m freaking jumping with joy, can’t you tell?

You know if you’re in it for the right reasons, which a lot of great leaders in the Marine Corps are, it’s always going to be difficult to say goodbye, it’s always going to be difficult. So what I would like to do is I would like to thank some key people. There’s no way, due to time, and the number of people here that mean a lot to me, that I could mention everyone by name. But I do want to mention just a couple, and single a few individuals out, and I’d like to start with the Gold Star parents again, Carla and Jim Hogan, and Jim and Maria Simpson. And Jim and Maria, I know you miss Abraham, and, so do a lot of us. And, to the Gold Star parents that are here today and the sacrifices, I tell you what a great American family these two families are, and I could keep going on just about both of them.

I’d also like to thank the First Marine Division band, who performed in the ceremony, but also I would like to thank, because this is the MEF, I’d like to thank the Third Marine aircraft wing band also. While they are not performing today, both of these incredible bands do several hundred performances a year, supporting all of the MEF units, along with installations and other commands. So please, give a round of applause for both bands.

I’d like to thank–and I had all the names mentioned earlier, that did all the help with this ceremony, but I do want to mention just a couple key people. One is Sergeant Major Carlos Ruiz, has headquarters regiment, First MLG. And he’s moving on to increased responsibility, going to, take over the force, Marine logistics group. A phenomenal individual, and then the man who’s standing behind me, Sergeant Major Wickham, the Commander of Troops. And I can go on about him, and many others, but what’s unique about, among many things with Sergeant Major Wickham, he just returned from a nine month deployment, about a month ago. Came back, from nine months, in a combat zone, and volunteered to be out here all week doing rehearsals and doing the ceremony. That’s the phenomenal people we have across this entire Marine Expeditionary Force. I’d like to thank my brother for coming, and my sister-in-law Shannon, and Emma, my niece. Emma, raise your hand please–my eight year old niece.

Now, it was about a year and a half when I made it home last summer, it was about a year, year and a half, when I made it home prior. And so Emma didn’t see me for about that year time frame. When she first saw me, she goes–first thing she says, ‘Can I paint your toenails?’ I’ll tell you, even tough guys can be softies sometimes.

I want to thank everyone who flew out and drove out to be here, again, there’s way, way too many that mean a lot to me to name by name, but all the way back in early and mid 80s, those Marines who are here, from second battalion first Marines, thank you so much. The Marines who, from the late 80s, 1st battalion, 4th Marines. 3rd battalion, 5th Marines in the early and mid.

And of course, the MEF. The mighty MEF. The place–the best place to ever be. The way to go out on top, with this unit. There’s so many Marines and sailors from command master chiefs, Sergeant Majors, incredible master gunnery, all the way down to the Marines you see standing behind you, representing the 53,000 fighting warriors that we have in this great organization.

I’m so proud of all of these Marines and sailors, I could speak forever. And there’s a lot of veterans that are in the audience. I want to thank you for your contributions of writing the previous chapters in our history books.

Their legacy is what inspired me as a young kid to be a United States Marine, and to want to leave everything I knew and go serve. So to all the veterans I want to thank you, with all sincerity, and I tell you, the young Marines that are standing behind me to represent all of these Marines in the MEF, are carrying on your legacy, and they picked up the torch you passed off.

Our 26th president of the Uinited States, Teddy Roosevelt, he once stated, speak softly and carry a big stick. Speak softly is diplomacy, but diplomacy will only work if you have the strength to back it up. Ladies and gentlemen, behind me, to the right, to the left, is the big stick. The ones who do the work, who put in the sacrifice, everyday, to make sure that this country, this most beautiful, great nation, still stands.

That Marines in 1st Marine division– make no mistake that when they prepare to step off a Range 400, and those infantryman load ammo in their magazines, and those tank crewman load ammo in the breaches, and the artillerymen, and the engineers, and they step off, make no mistake that they understand exactly what they are training for, and what those targets down range represent.

Make no mistake that the 3rd Marine aircraft wing, those maintainers, those mechanics, those crew chiefs, those avionics Marines, all of them understand the importance of what they do. I owe my life to the thousands of times I’ve gotten into the back of a helicopter — and put my total trust and confidence to every single one of those Marines did what they’re supposed to do and got me safely from point A to point B, in sometimes aging aircraft and make no mistake when those Marines land and they jump out the back and they run down a ramp of what they’re going to do. And make no mistake that these wonderful Marines and sailors and our corpsman and the Marine logistics group, who without logistics, without communication, without intel without the law enforcement support from all of the units across the MEF information group, without all of the that the whole war fighting machine would cease to exist. Ask any — look through any history book and you’ll see the importance of all of that. And make no mistake what these Marines — but these Marines are committed to it. These Marines left their home — all these great Americans left their home — signed up during a time of war and said, ‘I wanna do that.’ And we owe them so much gratitude. I am so, so proud. And they understand that in our profession there can be no second place. There can be no losing. Because the weight of our nation rests on their shoulders. And I spoke to them yesterday and thanked them, so now I want to talk about them to each of you, but we are so indebted. So to all the veterans please know, and myself included soon, we got incredible people who picked up the torch, and they are still doing, and they are currently the authors writing the next chapter in America’s history books. And they’re going to keep us proud. And everyone here — always, always be proud that you served with one MEF. Always be proud that you are a One Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine and sailor. Once one MEF, always one MEF. Remember that.

And all the guests, shortly here, to conclude the ceremony we’re going to do a pass and review. And these Marines are going to pass by. What I’ll ask you to do is break out your cameras and your smartphones, and take their pictures. And then later when you turn on the evening news and you see negative, or if you’re just having a bad day, pull those pictures up. It’ll remind you of what is right and great about this nation. And that our nation will always have a future as long as you see great Americans like you see out here. I am so proud of all of the Marines and sailors in this organization, and I cannot say enough. Thank you for what you do.

So anyways, we were in a white vehicle driving back to the range and my company commander was driving back and forth, trying to keep up with then lieutenant colonel. We stopped, doors opened up, we’re stepping out to go to a training range, and without knowing my company commander’s foot got wrapped up in the seatbelt. So there, my battalion commander steps out, my company commander steps out, trips, falls flat on his face, right in front of the battalion commander and lieutenant colonel. I looked at him and said, ‘Sir, really? Come on.’ But even back then, you talk about a committed, smart, tactically, technically proficient and sound commander who cares about marines, who cares about discipline and cares about the welfare of every Marine within that command. And when he checked in here, and he took over the mighty MEF, I watched him the last two years, and sir, I tell ya, I’m proud. I could go on and on. You’re technically, tactically, strategic, everything for this MEF, I could not say enough. And I want to thank you, it’s been such an honor to work with you for the past two decades. And I wish you well as you, uhm, next chapter, I wish you well, and, just very proud of you sir. Sgt. Major Porterfield, and Karen, you always want to turn over a good product. You also want continued success. I am proud that a better man, a better sergeant. Major than me is now taking over the MEF. And James, you’ve been a friend for quite a while, and I respect the hell out of you. You know that. We’ve had our words, and uh,, our words isn’t good behind closed doors I’m not — I maybe said that wrong. I meant sometimes less is more. And you have behind the door conversations that are close conversations with close people. And James Porterfield is one of the closest to myself. I’ve shared a lot of things that I don’t share with a lot of people because I trust you, and because that’s how much I think of you. And when the finished, and we decided on you coming here, I was ecstatic. So welcome to you and Karen, to the MEF, even though you’re already within the MEF, love you like a brother, you know that. And then lastly, to my spouse — oh wait a minute, I don’t have a spouse. So I want to thank everyone else’s spouse.There’s a lot of spouses here that I’ve come to know and became very good friends with, and again, I could not mention all by name, but all the spouses and all of the families here, I appreciate your support and I appreciate what you do, because being a spouse of a Marine is not easy. So I thank all of the families, everyone here for coming, all of the marines behind me that represent this great organization, I just want to see everyone here succeed, and I’ll be a cheerleader watching on the sideline clapping you all on. Thank you very much.

(Rush transcript. Some names are not included.)

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