NAVAL SUBMARINE BASE KINGS BAY, Ga. --
It was no average summer day Aug. 17, in Kings Bay, Ga., at least not at the Marine Corps Security Force Company’s barracks. There was a special feeling in the air for every fellow Marine, sailor, friend and family member of a true American hero.
This hero is Cpl. Jason Dunham, Marine Medal of Honor recipient.
The Marines dedicated their barracks to Dunham in a ceremony in front of his family, friends and Marines who served with Dunham during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Corporal Jason Dunham is a Marine hero for today’s era,” said Lt. Col. Andrew J. Murray, commanding officer of Marine Corps Security Force Company Kings Bay, Marine Corps Security Force Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force. “He will be a Marine leader to be emulated by Marines here (for years to come).”
On April 14, 2004, while serving as rifle squad leader in 4th Platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, 1st Marine Division, Dunham’s squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in the town of Karabilah, Iraq, when they heard rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire erupt approximately two kilometers away.
Dunham led his team toward the engagement to provide fire support to their battalion commander’s convoy, which had been ambushed as it was traveling to Camp Husaybah near the Iraqi-Syrian border.
As they advanced, Dunham’s team began to receive enemy fire themselves. Dunham ordered his squad to dismount their vehicles and led one of his fire teams on foot several blocks south of the ambushed convoy.
Discovering seven Iraqi vehicles in a column attempting to depart the area, Dunham and his team stopped the vehicles to search them for weapons.
As they approached the vehicles, an insurgent leaped out and attacked Dunham. Dunham wrestled the insurgent to the ground and, in the ensuing struggle, saw him release a grenade.
Dunham immediately alerted his fellow Marines to the threat. Aware of the imminent danger and without hesitation, Dunham covered the grenade with his helmet and body, bore the brunt of the explosion, and shielded his Marines from the blast.
Sacrificing his own safety in an act of bravery which left him mortally wounded, he saved the lives of two fellow Marines. He gave his life fighting for his country.
On Jan. 11, 2007, the president of the United States awarded Dunham the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions and gallantry.
So here at the Marine Corps Security Force Company barracks, where Dunham served from 2001 to 2003, the Marines dedicated their building, which is now known as Dunham Barracks, to him.
General Robert Magnus, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, was on hand for the ceremony and offered these words to the audience as the barracks’ name was unveiled.
“He knew his mission was to stop the insurgents and protect his fellow Marines. He would stand up in front of those who would bully his fellows,” Magnus said. “ … Dunham (is) courage, honor and commitment. It is with great honor that we dedicate this barracks in memory of Corporal Jason Dunham.”
A few of the Marines who served with Dunham in 3rd Bn., 7th Marines, were there as well and they explained Dunham’s charisma and sense of pride and how it felt to watch the barracks dedication.
“He was a tough, good-looking, likable young guy with all the charisma in the world,” said Capt. Dave Fleming, Dunham’s platoon commander while he served with Weapons Platoon, Company K. “The Marines looked up to him. The sense of pride he had, he instilled in them.”
“I’m glad I came here to see this; it’s beautiful,” explained Sgt. Jimmy Moronta, who served with Dunham in Weapons Platoon.
Perhaps no one was more touched by the dedication than Dunham’s family, who was there in the front row.
“It’s an honor and it’s wonderful the Marines have the history they do to keep him alive,” said his mother, Deb Dunham. “(The Marines) are his family just as we’re his family.”
“It’s our family name (up there), but it’s about Jason. It’s not about us,” said his father, Dan Dunham. “Jason was very humble; this would have been something he really respected.”
Some say immortality means to be remembered throughout history. For the Marines and sailors stationed here at Marine Corps Security Force Company, Dunham’s memory will last for years to come, inspiring young Marine leaders to carry on the tradition built by Marines like Dan Daly, Chesty Puller, Smedley Butler … and now Jason Dunham.