Marine Shot in Head, Walks Away

Marine Lance Corporal Richard Caseltine was shot in the head by a sniper and just got up and continued his mission.

Marine Lance Corporal Richard Caseltine Shot in Head, Walks Away (Photo) The young Marine had just shot a suspected insurgent and was walking back across the villa’s rooftop when he keeled over from a terrific thud to the back of his head. A sniper had fired a single, well-aimed bullet that tore through the top of Lance Cpl. Richard Caseltine’s helmet, traced a path along the edge of his skull and buried burning bullet fragments in the back of his neck. Less than a minute later, the 20-year-old from Aurora, Ind., was up on his feet — crouching, shaking and miraculously, still alive. “You expect when somebody gets shot in the head, they’re dead,” the soft-spoken Caseltine told The Associated Press in an interview, cradling the battered camouflage helmet that saved his life Saturday. “I consider myself very lucky.”


“It felt like somebody came from behind and punched me in the back of the head as hard as they could,” Caseltine said. “It just rocked me. I went forward and my ears started ringing really bad. I couldn’t hear anything.” It wasn’t clear at first if one of the Marines had misfired one of their weapons. But in a split-second, they understood the sole shot had not come from them.

Ducking to the ground, they rushed to Caseltine’s aid. “He was yelling, ‘I got hit! I got hit!’ Congleton said. A cursory check revealed blood at the back of Caseltine’s neck but no serious wounds. Caseltine was still conscious. Able to walk, he got up and, crouching, moved to the relative safety of a room downstairs, where a Navy medic examined him. The back of his neck burned, but he was fine otherwise.


On Tuesday, three days later, Caseltine was back on base, hours away from rejoining his squad at an outpost elsewhere in Ramadi. Sitting outside his sandbagged tent, he pulled out a photo that showed him cradling his wife. It had been ripped in two by the bullet — right down the middle. Caseltine had stuffed it into the netting inside the top of his helmet, known as Kevlar for the protective material, “so my wife would be with me.” “They always tell us not to throw our Kevlars around or bang them on the ground. I usually do, but I ain’t gonna’ be throwing my new one down,” Caseltine said. “I ain’t gonna’ take it for granted anymore because I know they work.”

I suspect Caseltine will be used in some Marine Corps training materials before long. Probably not recruiting films, though.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    Marc Cohn leaps to mind.

  2. Mark says:

    I thought the same thing a Bithead, although I do not think there will be a song “Walking in Ramadi”

  3. McGehee says:

    I would’ve loved to see the look on the dirtbag sniper’s face when Caseltine got up and walked away.

  4. joni goble says:

    This Marine is my son…in one day, i received the worse phone call any mother could, and the best…i was able to hear my son was alive and talking, that he had gotten up, and walked, even grinned…
    when i spoke with him, he told me he was fine, and he was waiting to go back to ramadi. May God speed to all in uniform, and may he continue to bless them, and their families.


  5. ashleigh says: