To Marines, the name Jason Dunham is already famous. He was born on November 10, 1981 — the Marine Corps birthday. He was raised in Scio, NY, and joined the Marine Corps in the year 2000. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines and was deployed to Iraq.
On April 14, 2004, Dunham made a decision that would save the lives of two Marines… at the cost of his own.
Dunham, a 22-year-old machine gunner from Scio, N.Y., was manning a checkpoint near Karabilah, near the Syrian border in Iraq, on April 14, 2004, when an Iraqi man grabbed his throat. As the two scuffled, the Iraqi dropped a grenade with the pin removed, and Dunham quickly jumped on it, using his Kevlar helmet and body to smother the blast.
Shrapnel pierced his skull, and he died eight days later with his parents at his side at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.
The then-Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael Hagee, presented Dunham with a Purple Heart before he died. General Hagee and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps John Estrada were also at his bedside when he died, alongside his parents.
He became the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was the second person to receive a Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq. A United States Navy missile destroyer has been named after him, with a piece of his helmet embedded into the mast.
He’s received our nation’s highest honors, but it doesn’t make up for the sacrifice he made for our country and for his Marines. Remember Corporal Jason Dunham this Memorial Day. Remember all of the heroes, the best and brightest among us, who have given their lives so that we may be free.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.