At the dedication of the Marine Museum at the Marine Corps headquarters in Quantico, Va., today — a ceremony to honor those who've served in past and present military conflicts — President Bush announced the next recipient of the nation's highest decoration for valor, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
"As long as we have Marines like Corp. Dunham, America will never fear for her liberty," the president said.
Corp. Jason Dunham, a 25-year-old Marine who'd been in Iraq less than six weeks. Attacked by insurgents while inspecting a convoy, he ended up in hand-to-hand combat.
"At one point he yelled to his fellow Marines 'No, no, no, watch his hand!' Moments later an enemy grenade rolled out," Bush said.
"Without a second's hesitation he knew what he needed to do because he saw that grenade was live," says Maj. Trent Gibson. "And he took his helmet off and covered the grenade with it in order to protect his Marines."
350 miles from Marine headquarters is Scio, N.Y., a one-stoplight town. Jason Dunham was raised here — they know him — and no one was suprised by what he did.
"It's just the way he was," a friend recalls. "He was always doing for other people."
When he was 17 and still a student here at Scio, Jason Dunham signed up for the Marines. Some say he was born to be in the Corps.
His parents were at today's ceremony.
"When he first left, we both looked at each other, and we knew it wasn't going to be good," Dunham's father Dan says.
The Dunhams will meet with the president again for a formal medal ceremony in the future.
Today is for heroes, but it's bittersweet.
"I would just like to wish Corp. Dunham a happy 25th birthday," Maj. Gibson said, chocking up. Because Oct. 10 was, in fact, Dunham's birthday.
A young Marine who died the way he lived — putting others first.