Corporal Jason L. Dunham has been named as the second recipient from the Iraqi theater of our nation’s highest honor for an act of bravery that cost his life but saved those of his comrades.
The Marine who President Bush said would receive the Medal of Honor died after he jumped on a grenade in Iraq and saved the lives of two comrades.
Cpl. Jason Dunham of Scio, N.Y., died on April 22, 2004, of wounds he sustained when his patrol was ambushed at Husaybah, in Anbar province near the Syrian border.
“He and his men stopped a convoy of cars that were trying to make an escape,” Bush said. “As he moved to search one of the vehicles, an insurgent jumped out and grabbed the corporal by the throat.”
During hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent, Dunham called out to his fellow Marines: “No, no, no. Watch his hand!”
“Moments later, an enemy grenade rolled out,” Bush said. “Cpl. Dunham did not hesitate. He jumped on the grenade to protect his fellow Marines. He used his helmet and his body to absorb the blast.”
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee presented Dunham with the Purple Heart at his bedside shortly before he died at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland with his parents at his side. His death occurred eight days after he was wounded.
The president told Dunham’s mother and father during the ceremony at Quantico, Va.: “You might say that he was born to be a Marine.”
The following has more details of Cpl. Dunham’s service and ultimate sacrifice.
Dunham was on his second tour in Iraq. He could have left the Marines and returned to his hometown in western New York to pursue his dream of becoming a state trooper, but he extended his tour to stay as a machine gunner with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
“We told him he was crazy for coming out here,” said Lance Cpl. Marke Dean, 22, of Owasso, Okla., who served with Dunham.
“I want to make sure everyone makes it home alive,” Dean said Dunham told him. “I want to be sure you go home to your wife alive.”
On the day he was wounded, Dunham was in charge of a traffic checkpoint set up after the ambush of a convoy. A man leaped out of a vehicle Dunham was searching and grabbed him by the throat. Dunham kneed the man in the chest to break the grip and tackled him as he tried to flee, according to Marine dispatches and “The Gift of Valor” by Michael Phillips.
Three other Marines rushed to help but Dunham shouted, “No! No! No! Watch his hand!” A grenade fell from the man’s hand to the ground.
Dunham ripped off his Kevlar helmet and slammed it on top of the grenade and then dropped facedown on top of the helmet to smother the blast with his body and chest armor.
“If it was not for him, none of us would be here. He took the impact of the explosion,” said Pfc. Kelly Miller, 21.
Much, much more on this fine American can be found at his memorial page.
Thank you, Corporal Jason L. Dunham.
This would also be an appropriate time to remember the first Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraqi theater, Sergeant First Class Paul Smith.
May our nation treasure their memories and sacrifices always.