Even the President had a tear for Jason
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  1. #1

    Exclamation Even the President had a tear for Jason

    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.


  2. #2
    November 27, 2006
    A leatherneck legend
    Book recounts Iraq struggle that earned a Medal of Honor

    By Michael M. Phillips

    On April 14, 2004, Cpl. Jason Dunham, 22, smothered a grenade with his helmet and body and absorbed the blast to save his friends. He died eight days later. On Nov. 10, President Bush announced that Dunham will receive the Medal of Honor. The author was embedded with Dunham’s unit, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, in Iraq. The excerpt begins after Dunham and others received a report that a convoy had been ambushed.

    Cpl. Jason Dunham and Pfc. Kelly Miller bolted up the street until they came to the white Land Cruiser, which was some 50 yards from the intersection where the alleyway met the road. Miller edged along the passenger side and saw the muzzle and wood front grip of an AK47 rifle poking out from under the floor mat. He looked up in time to see the driver, a young Iraqi man in a black tracksuit, open the door and lunge at Dunham.

    The Iraqi wrapped his left arm around the back of Dunham’s neck and cocked his right arm to punch the corporal in the face. Dunham caught the man’s fist to block the swing. The two stumbled toward the Land Cruiser. Dunham pulled his right knee up and drove it into the Iraqi’s stomach. The Iraqi doubled over from the blow, and the men fell to the ground in an angry embrace.

    Miller’s brother, a sheriff’s deputy in California, had bought Kelly a telescoping police baton and shipped it to Iraq. Miller didn’t really think he’d ever need it, but he liked the idea of having one and kept it in a holster zip-tied to the right side of his flak vest. Up until that point, Miller had used it mostly to fend off stray dogs. But as he ran around the front of the SUV toward Dunham and the Iraqi, he pulled the baton out and snapped it down to his side to extend it to its full length. Miller saw the Iraqi lying on his back, his head toward the rear of the Land Cruiser. Dunham was face down on top of him, his torso rotated slightly counterclockwise.

    Miller planted his left knee in the Iraqi’s ribs. Bracing his left hand on Dunham’s back, he slammed the butt of the baton as hard as he could into the Iraqi’s forehead. The blow was so sharp that the metal baton collapsed back into itself. Miller was amazed that the man was still conscious, much less still fighting. He slammed the baton into the Iraqi’s forehead again, then jabbed it into the left side of the man’s neck, a blood choke he had been told would pinch off circulation to the brain through the carotid artery.

    Lance Cpl. Bill Hampton saw the melee and charged around the van and up the street, his adrenaline surging. All he could hear was the loud pounding of his own pulse as he searched for an open spot on the Iraqi to hit. “Shoot him in the head,” he said to himself. He aimed his rifle, but worried that any shot might go through the Iraqi and hit Miller. “Hell,” he thought, “I’ll muzzle thump him.” Marines were taught to poke their rifle barrels into the eyes of their enemies to make sure they’re dead. Only the dead or comatose could resist flinching when poked hard in the eye with a long piece of metal. The muzzle thump could also be delivered to the chest to get someone aggressive to back off without resorting to deadly force. Hampton planned to thump the Iraqi in the temple. If it knocked the man out, fine. If it killed him, that was fine with Bill, too. Hampton picked out a spot on the wriggling Iraqi’s temple and pulled his rifle back to get some force behind it.

    Lance Cpl. Jason Sanders, the radio operator, saw everything in slow motion: The Iraqi on his back, Dunham straddling him, Miller kneeling down and bashing the Iraqi’s head with the baton, Hampton crossing the road and leaning in to help.

    While Dunham, Miller and Hampton wrestled with the Iraqi, Sgt. Stephen Reynolds, a sniper, told Sanders to provide cover in case the Iraqi had friends around. So Sanders was more than a dozen yards away from the fight when he heard Dunham yell a warning: “No, no, no — watch his hand.” Hampton heard nothing except the beating of his own heart. But he caught a fleeting glimpse of Dunham’s helmet on the ground next to the Iraqi. Dunham was on his stomach with his arms stretched out in front of him and wrapped around the sides of the helmet, as if he were holding it down on top of something.

    Then came the explosion.

    Sanders saw Dunham face down in the dirt. “Cover me,” he said to Staff Sgt. John Ferguson. “I’m going there to get Dunham.” Sanders ran up and took hold of the woven canvas handle on the back of Dunham’s flak vest.

    At the same moment, Staff Sgt. Brad Baiotto came around the corner from the alleyway behind Ferguson, who was on the left side of the line of vehicles, watching for Iraqi gunmen further down the lane. “Help me get my Marine out of here,” Ferguson said to Baiotto. Baiotto ran forward and grasped Dunham’s vest with both hands. Dunham’s head, covered in bright red, flopped loosely onto Baiotto’s wrists and forearms.

    Bending down, Sanders and Baiotto dragged Dunham backward, his boot heels scraping along the dirt road, until an Iraqi gunman popped around a corner down the lane and fired a burst of six or eight rounds at them. The Marines put Dunham down and took cover behind one of the Iraqi vehicles. Ferguson fired four or five rounds in the Iraqi’s general direction, ill-aimed shots intended to get the man to stop shooting. The Iraqi ducked around the corner, but Ferguson waited, his rifle raised and pointed at the spot where the man had disappeared. The Iraqi popped back into view an instant later, and Ferguson clearly saw his pale yellow shirt and black pants before the staff sergeant fired two quick shots at him. The man slipped back around the corner. Taking advantage of Ferguson’s covering fire, Sanders and Baiotto pulled Dunham toward the opening at the end of the cinder-block wall.

    “It’s Sanders, buddy, relax,” Sanders told Dunham. “I’m gettin’ you out.”

    First Lt. Chris McManus had been camped out in the desert for the last three days, waiting for something to happen. Lt. Col. Matt Lopez thought it prudent to have a few gun trucks not too far away, ready to help any Marines who got into a tight spot. So McManus and his men were waiting with four Humvees six miles from the H-K Triangle when he heard the radio call. “This is Sanders. We got three casualties.”

    The lieutenant was shocked not so much by the report of casualties, but that the radio actually worked at such a long range. “We’re en route,” McManus responded.

    “We’ve got one that’s pretty bad,” Sanders said.

    On the way, McManus and the gun trucks picked up Hospitalman 3rd Class Joseph Lynott — called Doc Chops for the long sideburns he had once had. The doc had heard a radio summons for “any corpsman” and jumped into one of the passing gun trucks.

    Doc Chops saw Dunham lying next to the cinder-block wall, his blood oozing into the dirt in a macabre halo. Dunham’s eyes were swollen shut, and the skin on his forehead was folded crudely back. He searched Dunham’s body for other injuries but found only a small nick on his neck. The corpsman didn’t have a support collar, so he tried to stabilize Dunham’s head by strapping a brown plastic Meal, Ready-to-Eat bag to each side. Dunham pushed the MREs away. Doc Chops wrapped the corporal’s head and eyes in white gauze. Dunham waved his arm and tried to remove the gauze. He made gurgling noises, but said nothing. Doc Chops inserted a saline drip to keep him hydrated. Once he had stabilized Dunham, the corpsman walked around the wall to check on Miller and Hampton. They asked whether Dunham was all right. “To be honest with you, I really don’t know,” Doc Chops responded.

    Adapted from the book “The Gift of Valor: A War Story” by Michael M. Phillips. Published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House Inc. Reprinted with permission.

    Copyright 2005 by Michael Max Phillips


  3. #3
    that was a good read

  4. #4
    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)

  5. #5
    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.

  6. #6
    Marine Free Member davblay's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Sparta, Tn
    Quote Originally Posted by LeftyCharette
    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!

  7. #7
    Marine Free Member grayshade's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Travelling right now, looking for a new home
    Cpl. Dunham's bravery and sacrifice will never go unremembered. Semper Fidelis my brother, I'll see you on the sunny-side.

  8. #8
    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.

  9. #9
    Being there. You could tell he was choked up when speaking about it.

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