Today, Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham's heroism will be enshrined for the ages.
That moment will come at the White House, as President Bush formally presents the Scio native's parents with the Medal of Honor. The honor, as significant as it is, always remains less than the recipient deserves. Dunham gave his life not for the medal, but for the love of his country and his fellow Marines.
Dunham is one of only two servicemen so far to receive the nation's highest military honor for heroism in Iraq. The young man from Allegany County, who had joined the Marines after graduating from high school, was on patrol in Karbala on April 14, 2004, when word arrived that a nearby convoy was under attack. When an insurgent dropped a grenade during hand-to-hand combat, Dunham fell on it and used his helmet and his body to shield and save two other Marines.
Evacuated to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, he died eight days later. The Medal of Honor bestowed today honors his heroism and preserves a public record of his sacrifice. Dunham was 22 when he died; the award was announced by the president at a Veterans Day event on Nov. 10, which would have been his 25th birthday.
The rarity of the honor is a measure of his courage, but only a partial measure of his sacrifice. Others have paid the ultimate price for serving America in Iraq -- there are 43 Western New Yorkers among the more than 3,000 military dead in this war.
Like Dunham, they all represent us. They, and their families, deserve far more than respect and honor. They deserve thanks. Dunham's sacrifice shines among them for its selflessness, but they all deserve a place in our hearts.