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Destroyer commissioning honors MOH recipient

U.S. Navy photo: Petty Officer 1st Class Martin Cuaron The USS Jason Dunham enters its home port in Florida’s Port Everglades Harbor. The ship is named after Marine Corps Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, who was mortally wounded by insurgents in Iraq in April 2004 and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

WASHINGTON — The Navy’s newest guided-missile destroyer, has been named honoring Marine Corps Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, who received the Medal of Honor posthumously for heroism in Iraq.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos delivered the keynote address during the ceremony Saturday at Port Everglades, Fla., and Debra Dunham served as sponsor of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer named for her late son.

Navy Cmdr. M. Scott Sciretta, USS Jason Dunham’s first commanding officer, and his 276-member crew also participated in the ceremony.

Dunham died April 22, 2004, eight days after throwing himself and his Kevlar helmet onto an enemy grenade to protect two fellow Marines in Karabilah, Iraq.

The 22-year-old Marine, who served with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, based at Twentynine Palms, Calif., was leading a rifle squad during a reconnaissance mission, when he and his fellow Marines responded to an attack on their commander’s convoy. Dunham wrestled an insurgent to the ground, and jumped onto a live grenade the insurgent had dropped to smother the blast.

Then-President George W. Bush announced on Nov. 10, 2006 — which would have been Dunham’s 25th birthday and corresponds with the Marine Corps’ birthday — that Dunham would become the first Marine to be awarded the nation’s highest military honor since the Vietnam War. Bush presented the Medal of Honor to Dunham’s family during a Jan. 11, 2007, White House ceremony.

“With this medal, we pay tribute to the courage and leadership of a man who represents the best of young Americans,” he said. “By his selflessness, Corporal Dunham saved the lives of two of his men and showed the world what it means to be a Marine.”

Two months later, the Navy Department announced that it would name a guided-missile destroyer in Dunham’s honor.

Designated DDG 109, the ship was christened April 1, 2009, at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. The 9,200-ton, 509-footwarship left for its new Fort Lauderdale home port in early October.

The Navy’s 59th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Jason Dunham will be able to operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups and underway replenishment groups, Navy officials said. It is equipped with the Aegis combat system, vertical launching system, advanced anti-submarine warfare system, advanced anti-aircraft missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles.