Our second biography in our new series of posts, which honors our Medal of Honor recipients, is about Marine corporal Jason Dunham. Jason was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on Jan. 11, 2007 for his courageous actions in Iraq on April 14, 2004.
Jason Dunham was born Nov. 10, 1981 in Scio, N.Y. and was raised with his parents, Dan and Deb, two brothers, Kyle and Justin, and his sister, Katelyn. He graduated from Scio High School in 2000.
His brothers and sister looked up to Jason as a role model. He gave lessons to them about confidence and character.
"You don't really have to listen to what other people say about you. Just do what you do," related Justin one such lesson. Jason was also always fun to be around, constantly smiling. "He always made you laugh," said Katelyn.
His teachers also fondly remember Jason. He was always very friendly, greeting his teachers and fellow students in the hallway. Chick Casagrande, his social studies teacher, said, "Jason was always a fun-loving boy who was always willing to help anybody with anything." The one thing that all of Jason's teachers remembered was his smile.
After graduating from high school in 2000 Jason entered Marine Corps Recruit Training. Upon completion he was stationed at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia as a Security Force sentry until 2003.
Cpl. Dunham was deployed to Iraq in early 2004 with the First Marine Expeditionary Force. His unit was based in Al-Karabilah and there he served as a squad leader.
Even in a war zone, Jason brought his good cheer. His parents told a story of when Jason wanted to play soccer with a group of Iraqi children.
"Jason loves kids," said his father, Dan. His comrades-in-arms formed a security perimeter around the group, so that they could play. His fellow Marines went out of their way to form the perimeter because they loved Cpl. Dunham.
On April 14, 2004, Cpl. Dunham's squad conducted a reconnaissance mission in the town of Karabilah, Iraq. They heard rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire erupt approximately two kilometers west of their position. Cpl. Dunham then led his Combined Anti-Armor Team towards the engagement to provide fire support to their Battalion Commander's convoy, which had been ambushed as it traveled to Camp Husaybah.
As Cpl. Dunham and his Marines advanced, they quickly began to receive enemy fire. Cpl. Dunham ordered his squad to dismount their vehicles and led one of his fire teams on foot several blocks south of the ambushed convoy. The team discovered seven Iraqi vehicles in a column attempting to depart. The team stopped the vehicles to search them for weapons.
As they approached the vehicles, an insurgent leaped out and attacked Cpl. Dunham. During their struggle, he saw the insurgent release a grenade. Cpl. Dunham immediately then alerted his fellow Marines to the threat. Without hesitation, Cpl. Dunham covered the grenade with his helmet and body. He absorbed the brunt of the explosion and shielded his Marines from the blast.
In an ultimate and selfless act of bravery, in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of at least two fellow Marines. He died eight days later from his wounds.