WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Department of Navy announced March 23 that the Navy's newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer will be USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109), honoring the late Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Donald C. Winter, made the announcement in Dunham's hometown of Scio, N.Y.
"Jason Dunham, the friendly, kind-hearted, gifted athlete who followed his star in the United States Marine Corps went on to become one of the most courageous, heroic, and admired Marines this great country has ever known," said Winter. "His name will be forever associated with DDG 109. May those who serve in her always be inspired by the heroic deeds of Jason Dunham, and may all of us strive to be worthy of his sacrifice."
Dunham was born in Scio on Nov., 10, 1981, sharing the same birthday as the United States Marine Corps. After high school graduation, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in July 2000, and completed recruit training 13 weeks later at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
Following his first duty assignment with Marine Corps Security Forces, Kings Bay, Ga., Dunham transferred to the infantry and was later assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, based in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Before deploying to Iraq in spring of 2004, Dunham was selected to lead a rifle squad -- a position that ultimately placed him on the front line in the war with the Iraqi insurgency.
On April 14, 2004, Dunham's squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in Karabilah, Iraq, when his battalion commander's convoy was ambushed. When Dunham's squad approached to provide fire support, an Iraqi insurgent leapt out of a vehicle and attacked Dunham. As Dunham wrestled the insurgent to the ground, he noticed that the enemy fighter had a grenade in his hand. Dunham immediately alerted his fellow Marines, and when the enemy dropped the live grenade, Dunham took off his Kevlar helmet, covered the grenade, and threw himself on top to smother the blast. In an ultimately selfless act of courage, in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of two fellow Marines.
In November 2006, at the dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., President Bush announced that the Medal of Honor would be awarded posthumously to Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham.
During his speech, Bush said, "As long as we have Marines like Cpl. Dunham, America will never fear for her liberty."
President Bush presented Cpl. Dunham's family with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 11.
In the spirit of this Marine, USS Jason Dunham will continue protecting America's liberty by providing a dynamic multimission platform to lead the Navy into the future. Utilizing a gas-turbine propulsion system, the ship can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups, and underway replenishment groups. The ship's combat systems center on the Aegis combat system and the SPY-Ld (V) multifunction phased array radar. With the combination of Aegis, the vertical launching system, an advanced anti-submarine warfare system, advanced anti-aircraft missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles, the Arleigh Burke-class continues the revolution at sea.
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