View Full Version : Even the President had a tear for Jason

11-19-06, 06:15 PM
Even the President had a tear for Jason; Dunham's return home after emotional opening of Marine Museum

By KATHRYN ROSS/Daily Reporter

SCIO - It wasn't hard for Dan and Deb Dunham to find their way home Tuesday night.

All they had to do was follow the 45 flags, bunting and red, white and blue wreathes Scio Central School personnel had placed from Main Street to the doorstep after learning that Marine Corporal Jason Dunham will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor.

The Medal of Honor is the nation's highest military award. President George W. Bush announced Friday at the dedication of the National Marine Corps Museum in Virginia that Dunham will be a recipient.

The former Scio Central School athlete died in April 2004, succumbing to wounds he received after throwing himself on a Mills bomb during a roadside check near Karbala, Iraq. His actions saved the lives of two other Marines.

“It's not about us, it's about Jason and the man on the right and the man on the left,” said Dan and Deb concerning all the fame, gifts and thanks they have received in the 31 months since they sat at their son's bedside in the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland before he passed away.

A few days ago when the Dunham's left for Virginia, they just wanted to be part of the opening ceremonies for the Marine Corps Museum. They never realized, even after they were told attendance was by invitation only that they would have a starring role in the ceremony.

“”We knew last year that it was something we wanted to be there for,” said Dan.

Since their son's death the Dunham family has increased immeasurably by the number of Marines who have become friends and part of the family as all have coped with the loss. “The Marines take care of their own,” is the oft quoted remark. The Dunham family, including Jason's younger siblings, Justin, Kyle and Katie, have come under the wing of the Marine Corps eagle, anchor and globe. They contact the family monthly, Deb said.

It wasn't until they realized their Marine friends were giving them just a little more attention than was required - they couldn't travel anywhere without a Marine escort including the bathrooms, they were given a private tour of the museum hours before the opening ceremony - they began to realize something “was up,” they said.

“We'd hoped Jason would be named a recipient on the day the museum was dedicated because it was on his birthday, but we didn't know,” said Deb.

They were given a front row seat at the outdoor ceremony in front of the soaring architectural precipice which symbolizes the photograph of the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima after the Corps loss 21,000 men there during some of the fiercest combat of World War II. The Dunhams were at stage right of the podium where President Bush made the announcement. They were amazed when the President, who they met last spring in Rochester, remembered them, giving them a little wave when he reached the podium.

“We learned that Jason was a Medal of Honor recipient when the President announced it,” Dan said. “We were all crying. Even the President had a tear running down his cheek.”

When the announcement was made Bush recounted the story surrounding Dunham's death saying, “As long as we have Marines like Corporal Dunham America will never fear for her liberty.”

The actual presentation of the Medal of Honor has not yet taken place. After they were asked the Dunhams said they would like to see it happen before Christmas, but since President Bush is on a tight schedule it will probably not occur until January said Dan. The ceremony will take place in the White House, and the Dunhams are allowed to invite 100 guests.

“Our families take up about that many,” Dan said.

Special guests they will invite also include the outgoing Marine Commandant who has become a family friend he said.

After the announcement the Dunhams were escorted to a private room where they once again met with the President.

“He came right over to us and gave us hugs,” said Deb. “He's a very warm and genuine person, not at all like he appears on television. He asked about Justin and Kyle and Katie and asked, ‘How you doin',” she said.

The Dunhams are doing well, although all the attention is a “little overwhelming” at times, Deb said.

Following the ceremony the Dunhams were taken by their Marine escort to a replica of Dun's Tavern where the Marine Corps was formed 231 years ago. They were escorted everywhere by the Marines.

They also visited Bethesda Hospital where they talked to wounded Marines, “and a couple of Navy guys,” Dan said, and where Deb was able to calm one mother's anguish concerning the information she had been given about her wounded son.

On Sunday they attended the New York Giants and Chicago Bears NFL football game and were allowed to go on the field and meet with players. They also appeared on the Bill O'Reilly Show.

At the game they were accompanied by several Marines in dress blues, Dan said he couldn't believe the warm welcome they received. “They must have shook a thousand hands everyone was thanking them, welcoming them home and offering to buy food and drinks.”

On Monday they met with more Marines before making the drive back to Scio where a Marine press liaison awaited them.

“That's what it's all about,” Deb explained, “taking care of one another. It's about the man on the right of you and the man on the left of you, it's not about war or politics,” Deb said, concerning her son's heroic action, the war in Iraq and the heated political debate surrounding it.

“People talk about the extraordinary thing Jason has done, but to us it was ordinary,” said Dan. “Right from the time he was a little boy he stood up for the underdog. For me and Deb what Jason did was normal. It's good to know there are people like Jason who will still do that.”

“Jason completed his mission here,” Dan said. “And we feel he's left us with a mission to tell the world how intelligent, courageous and considerate the Marines are. What Jason did means so much to them, that they're showing their gratitude by taking care of us.”

“It's not about us. I would have liked it much better if Jason had been at the game instead of us. Our whole mission is to make people recognize the good these guys are doing. There's a lot that they are doing for the people in Iraq that we aren't hearing about.”

“We have no control over whether this country goes to war,” Dan said. “If that choice is made as civilians it is our duty to support the soldiers and to tell their stories.”

“We have a great many gifts in this country that people in other countries don't have, with that comes a great responsibility. They (the soldiers) are making sure others have the same gifts and opportunities we have here,” Deb said.

The Medal of Honor was established by a joint resolution of Congress in 1862. It is awarded in the name of Congress to a person who, while a member of the Armed Services, distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States, including bravery or self-sacrifice, so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his comrades.

More than 3,400 Medals of Honor have been bestowed since 1861. On April 4, 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith posthumously earned the Medal of Honor. Before Dunham the last Marine to receive the Medal of Honor was Lance Cpl. Miguel Keith during Vietnam.

There are three versions of the Medal of Honor - one design for the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, bearing a star - and another design each for the Army and Air Force. Each medal is hung on a light blue ribbon embroidered with 13 stars.


11-21-06, 01:14 PM
November 27, 2006 <br />
A leatherneck legend <br />
Book recounts Iraq struggle that earned a Medal of Honor <br />
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By Michael M. Phillips <br />
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On April 14, 2004, Cpl. Jason Dunham, 22, smothered a grenade with his...

03-25-07, 05:52 PM
that was a good read

05-23-07, 01:46 PM
As the President said in his remarks at the opening of the Museum: "Corporal Dunham was born to be a Marine." He was born November 10, 1984. It is good to know that he died doing something he was proud of. Corporal Dunham's was an honorable passing. Semper Fi to him and his family.

When I get to Heaven, St Peter I will tell "One more Marine reporting, Sir. I've served my time in Hell."

David Trousdale
LCPL, USMC (1989-1997) :tank:

05-28-07, 01:59 PM
I was one of the Marines Cpl Dunhams family visited in Bethesda, it was a very emotional moment especially as both our mothers embraced in a very bittersweet moment...happy I had survived my wounds, but so sad for the loss of Cpl Dunham. Thats a day i won't forget.

05-28-07, 03:46 PM
I was one of the Marines Cpl Dunhams family visited in Bethesda, it was a very emotional moment especially as both our mothers embraced in a very bittersweet moment...happy I had survived my wounds, but so sad for the loss of Cpl Dunham. Thats a day i won't forget.

Always remember him the way he was, when you served with him, when he was playing around and so forth. But never forget how he gave his all for his fellow Marines. It's an honor to met someone that knew this fine Marine! My hats off to you Marine, carry the torch on for the younger Marines to see! Train your men well, keep them ready and hard! Be always ready to defend and protect our Freedom ,our brothers, in this war!

I SALUTE YOU, my Brother---Semper Fi! GOD BLESS!

05-28-07, 05:48 PM
Cpl. Dunham's bravery and sacrifice will never go unremembered. Semper Fidelis my brother, I'll see you on the sunny-side.

07-04-07, 05:59 PM
As I'm just catching up on this site this is the first time reading this story of Cpl Dunham....what a Marine is all I can say.

07-04-07, 08:01 PM
Being there. You could tell he was choked up when speaking about it.