Saturday, March 24, 2007

USS Jason Dunham

Dan and Debbie Dunham hold a portrait of their son, Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham, on the back porch of their home in Scio, N.Y., Nov. 15, 2006. Navy Secretary Donald Winter formally announced on Friday, March 23, 2007, that the Navy will name its next destroyer the USS Jason Dunham for the Marine corporal who died after throwing himself on a grenade to save at least two lives during a struggle with an Iraqi insurgent three years ago. (AP Photo/Don Heupe, Filel)

Cpl Jason Dunham lost his life while struggling in hand to hand combat with the enemy.

(CNN) -- President Bush announced on Friday that the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration, will be awarded posthumously to Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham.

In April 2004, Dunham was leading a patrol in an Iraqi town near the Syrian border when the patrol stopped a convoy of cars leaving the scene of an attack on a Marine convoy, according to military and media accounts of the action.

An occupant of one of the cars attacked Dunham and the two fought hand to hand. As they fought, Dunham yelled to fellow Marines, "No, no watch his hand." The attacker then dropped a grenade and Dunham hurled himself on top of it, using his helmet to try to blunt the force of the blast.

Still, Dunham was critically wounded in the explosion and died eight days later at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.

"As long as we have Marines like Corporal Dunham, America will never fear for her liberty," Bush said Friday as he announced that Dunham would receive the award. Bush spoke at the dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia. (Watch announcement of award at museum -- 1:27)

"His was a selfless act of courage to save his fellow Marines," Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Huff of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, was quoted as saying in Marine Corps News that April.

"He knew what he was doing," Lance Cpl. Jason A. Sanders, 21, of McAllester, Oklahoma, who was in Dunham's company, was quoted as saying by Marine Corps News. "He wanted to save Marines' lives from that grenade."

In various media accounts, fellow Marines told how Dunham had extended his enlistment shortly before he died so he could help his comrades.

"We told him he was crazy for coming out here," Lance Cpl. Mark E. Dean, 22, from Owasso, Oklahoma, said in Marine Corps News. "He decided to come out here and fight with us. All he wanted was to make sure his boys made it back home."

"He loved his country, believed in his mission, and wanted to stay with his fellow Marines and see the job through," Vice President Dick Cheney said when speaking of Dunham's heroism at a Disabled American Veterans conference in July 2004.

On Jan 20, 2007, he joined Sgt Paul Ray Smith as a Medal of Honor recipient (video here - life of a hero)in the Global War on Terror.

Acknowledging all service members afterward, the father said "Their names are all attached to this medal. They're all courageous. They all have valor. It's something that I want them all to know: They're part of this medal. It's as much theirs as it is Jason's."

Wall Street Journal reporter Michael M. Phillips, who covered the war in Iraq alongside Dunham's unit, also attended the ceremony. Phillips first introduced Dunham's story to a mass audience with a front-page article published May 25, 2004. He later wrote the unabridged story in "The Gift of Valor; A War Story," which narrates Jason's life and death, from growing up in Scio, to giving his life in service to country, to an eight-day journey home battling his wounds.

On April 14, 2004, in Iraq near the Syrian border, the corporal used his helmet and his body to smother an exploding Mills Bomb let loose by a raging insurgent whom Dunham and two other Marines tried to subdue.

The explosion dazed and wounded Lance Cpl. William Hampton and Pfc. Kelly Miller. The insurgent stood up after the blast and was immediately killed by Marine small-arms fire.

Semper Fi!

- May no soldier go unloved
Soldiers' Angels