MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- The bare walls of one classroom in Corporal’s School have been transformed into a memorial dedicated to the Corps’ most recent Medal of Honor recipient, Cpl. Jason L. Dunham.
In a dedication ceremony at Corporal’s School, Feb. 15, the Air Station became part of the legacy which ranges from the small tent cities occupied by Marines in Iraq to the hallways of schools across America that have retold the story of Dunham’s valor.
“I think this room is symbolic of the leadership and style of leadership that Corporal Dunham possessed and displayed on a day-to-day basis,” said 1st Sgt. Jean-Paul Courville, the company first sergeant for 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines who served with Dunham before deploying to Iraq. “I think that if he were here to view this he would say that the qualities and traits that he possessed as a Marine leader would be symbolic again in that room.”
The story of Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, a rifle squad leader for Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, using his body and kevlar helmet as a human shield against a grenade while engaged in combat has touched the hearts of many Marines and people across the nation.
When Dunham’s heroic story of selflessness was told to the students of Corporal’s School, emphasizing that a Marine of their rank and generation had gone above and beyond the call of duty, it was decided to create a room in Dunham’s honor to help pass down his story to all future classes, according to Gunnery Sgt. Sherry Hopper, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of Corporal’s School.
“Corporal Jason Dunham is one of many Marines recognized for his unselfishness and what it really means to possess a devotion to duty,” Hopper said. “The dedication and sacrifice that Corporal Dunham made proves that the Marine Corps’ legacy of selfless dedication and honor to duty are still being upheld in our Corps’ noncommissioned officers of today.”
This classroom provides a good example of strong leadership for corporals to follow, according to Courville, who is also the company first sergeant of Company M, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
“By having this room in Corporal’s School, it is almost like having a door that allows other corporals to see Dunham’s leadership,” Courville said. “I think this room is like an ongoing legacy, not only of just Corporal Jason Dunham, but what Marine NCOs are put into the Marine Corps for and what they should strive to be. I think it’s a badge of honor for the (school).”
A once plain, white wall in Corporal’s School now displays the Medal of Honor and a wall of pictures telling the story of Dunham’s life and his heroic contributions to the Corps.
Displayed along with the wall of pictures is a flag that was flown in combat in Iraq, a special contribution by Cpl. Nathan C. Haris, a powerline mechanic with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 and a student of Corporal’s School.
“(VMFA(AW)-533) went to Iraq last year and had the opportunity to fly American flags in our aircraft,” Haris said. “I had one of these flags at home and felt that with the room being dedicated to a Medal of Honor recipient, it needed a flag and a good flag to put in here would be one that flew combat missions in Iraq. Corporal Dunham did a lot for the Corps. Hopefully this room will inspire (corporals) to emulate Corporal Dunham and go off his example.”
With Dunham being the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor since 1945, the Corporal’s School classroom allows Marines of today to connect with the values Marines have possessed throughout history.
“This room will help prepare tomorrow’s leaders for today. I think it gives them a chance to reflect on the amount and degree of commitment it takes to live up to what the Nation expects of us Marines,” said Col. Robert Lanham, the Air Station’s commanding officer. “These young leaders need to understand that one of their generation is now a Medal of Honor recipient, one of them has earned the nation’s highest honor. I think that’s really important for people to grab a hold of, that the current generation is carrying on the Marine Corps tradition and living up to the bar that was set high by those who came before us.”
Now, all corporals who attend Corporal’s School will have the opportunity to learn from Cpl. Dunham’s selflessness and see pictures of the NCO who has changed Marine Corps history.
“I can’t even put into words how appreciative I am to have known and met and worked with Corporal Jason Dunham,” Courville said. “I think his family would see this room as another great honor. I think that it says a lot that the Corporal’s School or NCO academy would use their son as a reference to what most NCOs should strive to be like. He was a leader by example, no questions.”