Small Wars Journal

Remembering our Heroes

Frontier Six, LTG William B. Caldwell, IV, Sends

Remembering our Heroes

Corporal Jason Dunham, United States Marine Corps

Four years ago Corporal Jason Dunham did the unimaginable when an insurgent tossed a grenade into the middle of his unit. In a split second, he placed the welfare of his comrades above his own. Covering the grenade with his Kevlar helmet and his body, he saved the lives of the Marines around him. Tragically, he died of his wounds eight days later. Jason's actions may come as a shock to us, but not to the people who knew him because they reflect the character of the man he was.

Jason was always concerned for others. He had extended his term of enlistment because he wanted to stay with his squad for their entire tour in combat. His good friend, Lance Corporal Mark Dean said "you're crazy, why would you do that?" Jason's response was "I want to make sure everyone makes it home alive. I want to be sure you go home to your wife alive." Shortly before deploying to Iraq, Lance Corporal Dean was a little short on cash and Jason bought him a phone card so he could call his wife.

From his first day in the Marines, Corporal Dunham stood out for his outstanding leadership abilities. One of his leaders, Staff Sergeant John Ferguson, said he showed "the kind of leadership where you're confident in your abilities and don't have to yell about it." A fervent patriot, his father, Dan Dunham said "Jason believed that all men on this earth should be free."

No, Corporal Jason Dunham's actions were no surprise to the people who knew him because Jason was a man of character and integrity, a selfless servant and leader. He embodied all the qualities we want in the men and women serving in our military. Jason also had something extra; the dedication to go above and beyond the call of duty, to care just a little more.

I am always amazed to hear stories like Jason's; amazed, but also thankful. Thankful that people like Deb and Dan Dunham raised a young man with Jason's character, compassion, and concern for others. Thankful that our nation always seems to produce another generation of heroes who are —to step up and serve when their nation calls.

For his actions that day, Corporal Jason Dunham was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. At that time, it was only the second Medal of Honor awarded for actions during the Global War on Terrorism. The first was to SFC Paul Smith of the US Army and the other two were awarded to Lieutenant Michael Murphy and Petty Officer Michael Monsoor both of the US Navy. They each made the ultimate sacrifice. Now it is our job to ensure their sacrifice and the lives they lived will never be forgotten.

On April 14th 2008, let's honor the incredible sacrifice of Corporal Jason Dunham and those who loved him so dearly.