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Major Gen. David H. Berger, Commanding General, Combat Center, makes his remarks during the dedication ceremony of the Cpl. Jason L. Dunham Memorial Mess Hall Feb. 28. In attendance were Dunham’s parents, Dan and Debra Dunham.

Photo by Cpl. Ali Azimi

Cpl. Jason L. Dunham honored in dedication ceremony

19 Feb 2014 | Cpl. Ali Azimi

Marines with 4th Platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment were conducting a reconnaissance mission in Karabilah, Iraq, April 14, 2004. 

After the ambush of their commanding officer’s convoy, Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, squad leader, led his Marines to provide fire support and were met with returning fire. 

Dunham was attacked by an insurgent and in the struggle the attacker released a grenade, which Dunham covered with his helmet and body to protect his fellow Marines. He saved the lives of at least two Marines and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor.

Dunham’s bravery was recognized during the dedication ceremony of the Cpl. Jason L. Dunham Memorial Mess Hall at the Combat Center, Feb. 18, 2014.

The ceremony began with an invocation by Navy Cmdr. Michael Williams, chaplain, 7th Marine Regiment, and marching of the United States and Marine Corps colors. Dunham’s Medal of Honor citation, which described his heroic actions, was read to the crowd.

The ceremony was attended by Dunham’s parents, Dan and Debra Dunham, as well as Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, commanding general, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Maj. Gen. Larry D. Nicholson, commanding general, 1st Marine Division, Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, commanding general, 1st Marine Logistics group, Brig. Gen. Carl E. Mundy, deputy commanding general, 1st MARDIV, Brig. Gen. James W. Bierman, commanding general, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and the Combat Center Commanding General, Maj. Gen. David H. Berger. 

“Marines like Jason, every one of them are volunteers,” Berger said. “Every one of them felt a calling to serve their nation in a time of need. They didn’t have to they could have chosen the easy route.”

After the completion of the ceremony, Dunham’s parents shook hands and talked to Marines in the crowd. Having a mess hall named after him was only fitting, they said.

“Jason liked to eat, so [the mess hall] is a good thing,” said Debra. “He called home one day and said, ‘the Navy has the best food,’ and I think he is really missing out on a good thing here.” 

The 21,840 square-foot mess hall can fit 440 patrons and provides inside and outside seating areas. Construction on the building started in June 2011 and ended in February. Its modern design and dynamic architecture provides natural lighting and a unique dining atmosphere. 

At the entrance of the mess hall, Dunham’s citation and picture hang as a permanent fixture. 

“Deb and Dan provided us with a great portrait of Jason in his combat gear,” Berger said. “It’s a great reminder of what true sacrifice really means.”

Dunham knew the dangers he faced when joining the Marine Corps. His bravery while serving Corps and country will always be remembered and his name and story fixed to the mess hall for all to see.

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