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President to honor fallen hero with medal

Bush dedicates Marine museum

QUANTICO, Va. -- An emotional President Bush said yesterday that he would present the Medal of Honor -- America's highest military decoration -- to a Marine who died when he jumped on a grenade in Iraq and saved the lives of two comrades.

The medal will be given posthumously to Corporal Jason Dunham of Scio, N.Y., who died on April 22, 2004, of wounds he received from an ambush of his patrol near the Syrian border.

"He and his men stopped a convoy of cars that were trying to make an escape," Bush said during a speech to dedicate a new Marine museum. "As he moved to search one of the vehicles, an insurgent jumped out and grabbed the corporal by the throat."

During hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent, Dunham called out to his fellow Marines: "No, no, no. Watch his hand!"

"Moments later, an enemy grenade rolled out," Bush said. "Corporal Dunham did not hesitate. He jumped on the grenade to protect his fellow Marines. He used his helmet and his body to absorb the blast."

Yesterday would have been Dunham's 25th birthday. The museum dedication came on the 231st anniversary of the establishment of the Marines.

"You might say that he was born to be a Marine," Bush told Dunham's mother and father, who were among an estimated 10,000 people attending the dedication of the museum. They will be presented with the award, which is voted on by Congress, at the White House.

Bush has presented the Medal of Honor six times. Three went to Vietnam veterans, one each to veterans of World War II and Korea, and one to an Iraq war veteran. Dunham is the second Medal of Honor recipient from the war in Iraq.

The dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps, located on a 135-acre site next to the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, began with the introduction of Marine Corps brass and a 21-gun salute to Bush, who walked from the building as the band played "Hail to the Chief." After the singing of the national anthem, four F-18 jets streaked across a blue sky.

The design of the museum's building, which slants upward toward the clouds, reflects the famous image of five Marines and a sailor raising the American flag on Iwo Jima. The scene was captured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning picture taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.

"Years from now when America looks out on a democratic Middle East, growing in freedom and prosperity, Americans will speak of the battles like Fallujah with the same awe and reverence that we now give to Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima" in World War II, Bush said.

The museum is the centerpiece of the Marine Corps Heritage Center, which will include a memorial park, parade grounds, artifact restoration facilities, and an onsite hotel and conference center. The museum, which opens to the public Monday, will focus on the Marines' contributions throughout the nation's history, immersing visitors in the sights and sounds of Marines in action.

Bush said visitors will experience life from a Marine's perspective -- what it's like to make an amphibious landing under fire, deploy from a helicopter in Vietnam, or endure a grueling boot camp.

"No, thanks," Bush joked.

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