Bush To Present Medal Of Honor

U.S. Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham is to be awarded the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of two fellow Marines by jumping on a grenade during an ambush. AP/Courtesy of the Dunham family

An emotional President Bush said Friday he would present the Medal of Honor — America's highest military decoration — to a Marine who died when he jumped on a grenade in Iraq and saved the lives of two comrades.

The medal will be given posthumously to Cpl. Jason Dunham of Scio, N.Y., who died on April 22, 2004, of wounds he suffered when his patrol was ambushed near the Syrian border.

"He and his men stopped a convoy of cars that were trying to make an escape," President Bush said during a speech to dedicate a new Marine museum. "As he moved to search one of the vehicles, an insurgent jumped out and grabbed the corporal by the throat."
During hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent, Dunham called out to his fellow Marines: "No, no, no. Watch his hand!"

"Moments later, an enemy grenade rolled out," the President said. "Cpl. Dunham did not hesitate. He jumped on the grenade to protect his fellow Marines. He used his helmet and his body to absorb the blast."

Friday would have been Dunham's 25th birthday. The museum dedication came on the 231st anniversary of the establishment of the Marines. Click on the Photo Gallery link to see pictures of Dunham.

"You might say that he was born to be a Marine," Mr. Bush told Dunham's mother and father, who were among an estimated 10,000 people attending the dedication of the museum. They will be presented with the award, which is voted by Congress, at the White House.

It will be the sixth Medal of Honor President Bush will have presented to troops who fought in Vietnam, World War II and Korea.

The dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps, located on a 135-acre site next to the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, began with the introduction of Marine Corps brass and a 21-gun salute to Mr. Bush, who walked from the building as the band played "Hail to the Chief." After the singing of the nation anthem, four F-18s streaked across a blue sky.

The design of the museum's building, which slants upward toward the clouds, reflects the famous image of five Marines and a sailor raising the American flag on Iwo Jima. The scene was captured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning picture taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.

"Years from now when America looks out on a democratic Middle East, growing in freedom and prosperity, Americans will speak of the battles like Fallujah with the same awe and reverence that we now give to Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima" in World War II, President Bush said.

The museum is the centerpiece of the Marine Corps Heritage Center, which will include a memorial park, parade grounds, artifact restoration facilities and an onsite hotel and conference center. The museum, which opens to the public Monday, will focus on the Marines' contributions throughout the nation's history, immersing visitors in the sights and sounds of Marines in action.

President Bush said visitors will experience life from a Marine's perspective — what it's like to make an amphibious landing under fire, deploy from a helicopter in Vietnam or endure a grueling boot camp.

"No thanks," Mr. Bush joked.
  • Christine Lagorio

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