On November 10th, 1775, at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, what was then known as the 'Continental Marines' was organized directly by the Continental Congress for the Revolutionary War as the on-board force directed to protect the Captain of a naval ship and his officers.
In January of 1783, with the war over, the Marines and the Navy were disbanded. However, a few individual Marines remained as security for the few American naval vessels remaining until, in 1798, the entire institution of both the Navy and the Marines was reconstituted to meet the needs of a pending naval war with France.
Since that time, the Marines have fought in every American military campaign, rising to particular prominence with their efforts in World War II. My own father, Matthew Veasey Jr, was a United States Marine, serving during the time between Korea and Vietnam. My wife's father, Robert Marshall, still living, actually served in the Corps during WWII. They are a part of the great tradition of defending our nation, as are the approximately 194,000 active-duty and 40,000 reserves of today's United States Marine Corps.
As many heroic Marines as there are serving today, and have served in the decades since the end of the Vietnam War, there have been none more heroic than 22-year old Corporal Jason Dunham of Scio, New York. Dunham is the latest Real American Hero to by highlighted here at the website, the only U.S. Marine since Vietnam to be awarded the nation's highest military honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
A man who had selflessly served his country and was scheduled to go home, Corporal Dunham had nevertheless extended his service in order to continue on with his group, some of whom told him he was crazy to stay when he was able to go. But Dunham had told them that all he wanted was to do whatever he could "to see that my boys all get home."
As CNN told the story, Corporal Dunham was leading a patrol in the Iraqi town of Karabilah near the Syrian border on April 14th, 2004. The patrol stopped a convoy of cars that was leaving the area of an attack on another Marine convoy. One of the vehicle occupants suddenly attacked Dunham, and the two began a hand-to-hand struggle during which his attacker suddenly pulled a grenade.
Dunham yelled to his fellow Marines "No, no, watch his hand" and the attacker dropped what turned out to be a bomb-type hand grenade near the group. Dunham instinctively hurled himself on top of it, using his helmet to help try to blunt the force of the blast. Dunham was critically wounded as the grenade exploded, dying eight days later at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. A member of his group was quoted as saying "He knew what he was doing. He wanted to save Marine lives."
There is no greater love that a man have than he lay down his life for his friends. This is an old motto that encapsulates the split-second decision that Jason Dunham made on that fateful day, the kind of decision that highlights the differences between real heroes and the rest of us.
On April 11th, 2007, President Bush presented Dunham's parents with his Medal of Honor, and in the body of the citation it describes his actions:
"In an ultimate and selfless act of bravery in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of at least two fellow Marines. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Corporal Dunham gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Navy."
Michael M. Philips, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, penned Dunham's story in his book "The Gift of Valor: A War Story" which is available through Amazon by clicking into the title of this blog entry.
(NOTE: you will be able to view all the Real American Hero stories by clicking into that below label)