Two years ago a young Marine fell on a hand grenade in Iraq, giving his life to save his comrades. Now he is in line to be recognized as only the second Medal of Honor winner from the war.
President Bush on Thursday was to posthumously award the medal, the nation’s highest military decoration, to Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham of Scio, N.Y. His parents were to accept the award in a ceremony in the ornate East Room of the White House.
Afterward, Bush was to visit an Army fort that must suddenly send troops off to Iraq more quickly than expected.
The agenda of military themes on Thursday came as Bush’s new Iraq strategy headed toward a showdown with the Democratic-controlled Congress. In a speech to the nation Wednesday, Bush said he would send 21,500 additional U.S. forces to Iraq to try to stabilize the country, despite objections from lawmakers and some of his own generals.
Marine used helmet, chest plate to absorb blast
In April 2004, Dunham, a 22-year-old corporal, received a report that a Marine convoy had been ambushed, according to a Marine Corps account. Dunham led his men to the site near Husaybah, halting a convoy of departing cars. An insurgent in one of the vehicles grabbed him by the throat when he went to search the car and the two fought. A grenade was dropped, and Dunham covered the explosive with his Kevlar helmet, which along with his chest plate absorbed some of the blast.
He died a few days later. Bush lauded Dunham’s courage when the president dedicated a new Marine museum in November.
Bush was to revisit his new Iraq plan in a speech at Fort Benning, Ga., where he was to have lunch with about 200 soldiers and 100 of their family members.
The president was to watch a demonstration of infantry training and meet privately with families who have lost loved ones before returning to the White House.
The 3rd Brigade of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Benning, will deploy early to Iraq to support Bush’s plan. Soldiers there were in line to go to Iraq in the coming months, and that timetable has been accelerated.