Oct. 12, 2013
By Mercedes Linton
According to Webster's Dictionary, a hero is "a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities." Jackie Kasler, a senior on Auburn's women's tennis team, has real deal American heroes in her family.
"My dad, Captain James Frederick Kasler, was in the Navy and retired after 20 years," said Jackie. "My grandfather, Colonel James H. Kasler, was in the Air Force, and my great-grandfather, Rex E. Kasler, was in the Army Air Corps."
Her grandfather, Colonel James H. Kasler, is a combat veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for 6 ½ years, and to this day, is the only person to be awarded the Air Force Cross three times.
He is one of the most highly decorated U.S. Military Personnel in history. "I can just sit around and listen to my grandfather speak for hours about his experiences," Jackie said. "He is a big deal, and just the fact that he is alive today is a blessing."
He currently has a biography out with his military experiences titled, Tempered Steel: The Three Wars of Triple Air Force Cross Winner James Kasler, written by Perry D. Luckett and Charles Byler. She has had the opportunity to meet people like Sen. John McCain, who fought in the war with her grandfather.
"When I told him who I was, his eyes just lit up," she said about her encounter with Sen. McCain. "He told me how my grandfather was a very courageous person and how he respects him so much. He called my grandfather a hero."
With three generations of military officers in her family, Jackie has grown up with the greatest appreciation for our nation's military and our beloved country.
"My dad always taught me that we live in the greatest country in the world," she said proudly. "We need to appreciate it and stand up for what we believe in."
Her father has always been a very influential person in her life, and she admires him greatly.
"He is extremely courageous," she said. "He is also very knowledgeable. He knows so much about history. He does a lot of traveling and just knows so much about politics.
The way he speaks about everything is really amazing. It's funny, people flock toward my dad. He just has this famous persona that people love! He is also street smart, not just book smart. I love listening to his stories, too."
Jackie talked about her dad always instilling in her values that she should live by.
"He always had a knack for coming up with these really good sayings to encourage my brother and me," Jackie said.
"One thing he used to say was `Champions adjust. Never complain about things changing, since change is the only constant in the world. Always aim to be better.'
"I would say that my most favorite value he taught me was `to stand up for what you believe in,' " she said. "My dad has always pushed that. Just standing up for what we believe and to not be afraid. Another thing he always said, `Don't let fear dictate your life.' "
Growing up with such a proud background, Jackie truly appreciates what our military is doing for our country. She reiterates how the real heroes are the ones who are out there fighting for us.
"If I could tell our military anything it would be, thank you," she says proudly. "I appreciate you and thank you again. You are definitely a hero in my eyes. To me, you are bigger than any celebrity."
Born in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and growing up in Gulf Breeze, Fla., Jackie has lettered three years and had a 9-1 record in singles and a 10-2 record in doubles with Jen Pfeifler last year, helping lead Auburn to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008 as the Tigers advanced to the second round.
The 19 victories for Auburn last season were the most since 1989.
Jackie won the UNLV Fall Invitational in 2012 and will begin this season ranked No. 23 nationally in doubles with Pfeifler.