Bush Presents Medal of Honor to Fallen Marine

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2007 – President Bush today presented the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest decoration, to the family of Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham, who died shielding his fellow Marines from a grenade blast in Iraq in April 2004.
“With this medal, we pay tribute to the courage and leadership of a man who represents the best of young Americans,” Bush said before presenting the medal to Dunham’s family at the White House.

Dunham, who grew up in Scio, N.Y., was the leader of a rifle squad with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, in Iraq. Dunham’s squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in Karabilah on April 14, 2004, when a nearby convoy returning to base was ambushed. When Dunham’s squad approached to assist the convoy, an Iraqi insurgent jumped out of a vehicle and grabbed Dunham by the throat. As Dunham wrestled the insurgent to the ground, he noticed that the enemy fighter had a grenade in his hand. Dunham ordered his Marines to move back, and when the enemy dropped the live grenade, Dunham took off his Kevlar helmet, covered the grenade with it, and threw himself on top to smother the blast.

Dunham initially survived his wounds, but died eight days later at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., with his mother and father at his bedside.

“By his selflessness, Corporal Dunham saved the lives of two of his men and showed the world what it means to be a Marine,” Bush said.

Dunham is the second servicemember in the war on terror and the first Marine since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor. His mother, father, sister and two brothers were at the ceremony today, which was attended by Cabinet members, Defense Department and Marine Corps leaders, members of Congress, past Medal of Honor recipients, and members of Dunham’s unit.

Bush spoke about Dunham’s upbringing in upstate New York. Dunham was a star athlete who was popular and a natural leader. His father, a dairy farm worker, and his mother, a school teacher, were devoted parents. “He grew up with the riches far more important than money,” Bush said.

Dunham joined the Marine Corps on July 31, 2000. It was in the Marines that he learned honor, courage, commitment and leadership qualities, Bush said. “As the leader of a rifle squad in Iraq, Corporal Dunham led by the values he had been taught,” he said. “He was the guy everybody looked up to; he was a Marine’s Marine who led by example.”

Bush noted that Dunham’s mother called the Marine Corps her son’s second family. Now that family is embracing her and the rest of the Dunham family as they deal with their loss, Bush said.

Since World War II, more than half of those who have earned the Medal of Honor have lost their lives in the action that earned it, Bush said. “Corporal Jason Dunham belongs to this select group,” he said. “On a dusty road in western Iraq, Corporal Dunham gave his own life so that the men under his command might live. This morning, it’s my privilege to recognize Corporal Dunham’s devotion to the Corps and the country and to present his family with the Medal of Honor.”