Navy Names Destroyer After Marine Medal of Honor Recipient
By By Sgt. Helen M. Searcy, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service
SCIO, N.Y., Mar. 26, 2007 The Navy honored Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham March 24 by naming a guided missile destroyer after the fallen Marine hero during a ceremony here.
Hundreds of students, teachers and veterans packed the gym of Scio Central High School as Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter announced that the name of the Navy’s newest Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer would honor the memory of the Marine Corps’ most recent Medal of Honor recipient.
Dunham is the Marine Corps’ first Medal of Honor recipient for actions in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He earned the Medal of Honor for his actions in Iraq on April 14, 2004, when he threw himself on top of a live grenade to save the lives of his fellow Marines. He died of his injuries eight days later at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Winter made the announcement in Dunham’s hometown, with Dunham’s parents, Dan and Deb, and siblings in attendance.
"Dan and I are very excited and proud to accept the powerful tribute the Navy has honored Jason with,” said an emotional Deb Dunham to the crowd. "We wish to thank the Navy for this historical honor you have given Jay by commemorating his actions and memory with a ship's title.”
"There is a long tradition in the United States Navy of naming our war ships after heroes,” Winter said. “The hero would no longer be with us, but his name would live on.”
Winter said that when the time came to name the newest destroyer, he had no problem coming up with a fitting namesake.
"It seemed appropriate, when the time came to name DDG 109, that we name that great ship after our newest Medal of Honor recipient,” he said. “This is the first time we've had a chance to recognize a Marine from this generation, and particularly a Marine who served so well and sacrificed his life on behalf of our nation in the global war on terror."
The Navy currently has six destroyers named after Marine Medal of Honor recipients. Winter said he expects the USS Jason Dunham to serve the fleet well for many years to come.
"I fully expect that this ship will be in the fleet for 30, 40 years, or maybe even more,” he said.
The USS Jason Dunham will be christened in 2009 and commissioned in 2010.
Army Sgt. First Class Paul R. Smith is Operation Iraqi Freedom’s only other Medal of Honor recipient so far. He also received the award posthumously.
(Marine Corps Sgt. Helen M. Searcy is assigned to Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps.)