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Jason Dunham's Medal of Honor / Nick Ehrhardt

Jason Dunham's Medal of Honor

Jason Dunham (United States Marine Corps)Corporal Jason Dunham, United States Marine Corps, holds a distinction that only a few of the best and bravest share. “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty,” Corporal Dunham, who would have turned 30 on November 10, 2011, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration offered by the U.S. government. Throughout its long history, the Medal of Honor has been awarded to fewer than 300 Marines – and Dunham became the first Marine since the Vietnam War to receive the award.

Dunham had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2000 after graduating high school. In 2004, he was serving in Iraq with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines as a squad leader. While searching a car that contained AK-47s, Dunham and his squad were attacked by the driver. The driver dropped a live grenade, and Dunham threw himself on the grenade. Severely wounded and in a coma, he was awarded the Purple Heart. He died in the hospital not long after.

The Medal of Honor came later, more than two years after his death. President George W. Bush announced the honor at the 2006 dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps. A few months later, Mr. Bush presented the medal to Dunham's family in a ceremony at the White House.

Dunham was further honored in 2009 with the christening of the USS Jason Dunham. The guided missile destroyer has a piece of Dunham's helmet encased in its mast, and the galley – nicknamed "Jason's Dugout" – is decorated with memorabilia of Dunham's favorite team, the Yankees.

Dunham is remembered as one of the brave few who give their all to protect our freedom. On this Veterans Day, we salute him, and we thank him for his sacrifice.