Medal of Honor granted to slain Marine
On what would have been the 25th birthday of Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham, President Bush said Friday that the Marine would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest decoration for valor.
Dunham, from Scio, N.Y., was 22 when he died from his wounds in April 2004, eight days after using his body and helmet to save two fellow Marines from an insurgent’s grenade.
Bush recounted Dunham’s exploit during a ceremony marking the opening of the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico, Va.
A machine-gunner, Dunham was leading a squad manning a checkpoint in an Iraqi town near the border with Syria. As Dunham searched a vehicle, “an insurgent jumped out and grabbed the corporal by the throat,” Bush said. Dunham engaged him in hand-to-hand combat, and shouted to his fellow Marines, “watch his hand.”
A grenade rolled out, Bush said, adding, “Cpl. Dunham did not hesitate; he jumped on the grenade to protect his fellow Marines.”
Dunham, who was with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, based in Twentynine Palms, will be the first Marine to receive the nation’s highest medal for bravery for combat since the war in Vietnam.
The award ceremony will be at the White House at a date to be selected by Bush and the Dunham family.
The president presented Dunham’s actions as a reflection of the history of the Marine Corps.
“Years from now, when America looks out on a democratic Middle East growing in freedom and prosperity, Americans will speak of the battles like Fallouja with the same awe and reverence we now give to Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima,” the president said to an audience of about 10,000, among them Dunham’s parents.
The museum, dedicated on the 231st anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps, is designed to evoke the photograph of the raising of the flag at Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima, during World War II, and to portray the Marine experience.
“In this museum, you’ll feel what it’s like to go through boot camp. No thanks,” said Bush, who was a member of the Texas Air National Guard during Vietnam.
Times staff writer Tony Perry in San Diego contributed to this report.