Contact: White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 202-456-2580
The East Room
9:55 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor a President can bestow. The Medal is given for gallantry in the face of an enemy attack that is above and beyond the call of duty. The Medal is part of a cherished American tradition that began in this house with the signature of President Abraham Lincoln.
Since World War II, more than half of those who have been awarded the Medal of Honor have lost their lives in the action that earned it. Corporal Jason Dunham belongs to this select group. On a dusty road in western
I welcome the Vice President's presence, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, Senator Ted Stevens, Senator John McCain, Senator Craig Thomas -- I don't know if you say former Marine, or Marine. Marine. Congressman Bill Young and his wife, Beverly; Congressman Duncan Hunter; Congressman John Kline, Marine; Congressman Randy Kuhl, Corporal Dunham's family's United States Congressman is with us. Secretary Don Winter; General Pete Pace; General Jim Conway and Annette; Sergeant Major John Estrada, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.
I appreciate the Medal of Honor recipients who have joined us: Barney Barnum, Bob Foley, Bob Howard, Gary Littrell, Al Rascon, Brian Thacker. Thanks for joining us.
I appreciate the Dunhams who have joined us, and will soon join me on this platform to receive the honor on behalf of their son: Dan and Deb Dunham; Justin Dunham and Kyle Dunham, brothers; Katie Dunham, sister; and a lot of other family members who have joined us today.
I appreciate the Chaplain for the Navy -- excuse me, for the Marine Corps. I didn't mean to insult you.
I thank Major Trent Gibson -- he was Jason Dunham's commander -- company commander; First Lieutenant Brian Robinson, who was his platoon commander. I welcome all the Marines from "Kilo-3-7" -- thanks for coming, and thanks for serving.
Long before he earned our nation's highest Medal Jason Dunham made himself -- made a name for himself among his friends and neighbors. He was born in a small town in upstate
He grew up with the riches far more important than money: He had a dad who loved to take his boys on a ride with him when he made his rounds on the dairy farm where he worked. His mom was a school teacher. She figured out the best way to improve her son's spelling was to combine his love for sports with her ability to educate. And so she taught him the words from his reading list when they played the basketball game of "horse." He had two brothers and a sister who adored him.
He had a natural gift for leadership, and a compassion that led him to take others under his wing. The Marine Corps took the best of this young man, and made it better. As a Marine, he was taught that honor, courage and commitment are not just words. They're core values for a way of life that elevates service above self. As a Marine, Jason was taught that leaders put the needs of their men before their own. He was taught that while
As a leader of a rifle squad in
In April 2004, during an attack near
Deb Dunham calls the Marine Corps her son's second family and she means that literally. Deb describes her son's relationship to his men this way: "Jay was part guardian angel, part big brother, and all Marine." She remembers her son calling from the barracks, and then passing the phone to one of his Marines, saying, "I've got a guy here who just needs to talk to a mom." Now it's the Marines who comfort her. On special days, like Christmas or Mother's Day or her birthday, Deb has learned the day will not pass without one of Jason's fellow Marines calling to check on her.
With this Medal we pay tribute to the courage and leadership of a man who represents the best of young Americans. With this Medal we ask the God who commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves to wrap his arms around the family of Corporal Jason Dunham, a Marine who is not here today because he lived that commandment to the fullest.
I now invite the Dunhams to join me on the stage. And, Colonel, please read the citation.
(The citation is read. The Medal is presented.) (Applause.)
END 10:04 A.M. EST