Soldier Who Sacrificed Own Life Receives Medal of Honor

Corporal Jason Dunham threw his body on a live grenade to save fellow soldiers.
Corporal Jason Dunham threw his body on a live grenade to save fellow soldiers.

Marine Sgt. Billy Hampton can walk the beach with his wife and daughter because 3 1/2 years ago his squad leader saved his life.

"I miss him, I miss him greatly," Hampton laments.

He says when is daughter is old enough, he will tell her the story of why she is here.

Her dad and two other Marines are only alive because on that April day, while on patrol near Iraq's border with Syria, Corporal Jason Dunham threw his helmet and then his body on a live grenade tossed by an enemy fighter.

He absorbed its deadly force.

"It wasn't just instinct. He did that because he knew that it was him or all of them," says Dunham's father Dan.

On the day his parents accepted his Medal of Honor, an emotional President Bush knew what they knew about why he'd volunteered for extended Iraq duty.

" he could stay with his squad. As he explained it, he wanted to 'make sure that everyone makes it home alive..."

In fact, in the one-stoplight town of Scio New York, just east of Buffalo, they knew Jay Dunham as a protector long before he joined the Marines.

One local woman wrote that as schoolkids Dunham helped her get through her ugly duckling days.

His mother recalls the conversation saying, "She says I wanted you to know he was always kind to me. He always sat with me on the bus and talked to me when nobody else would talk to me!"

When they had a memorial service for Corporal Dunham at his old high school gym it was standing room only, 1,500 people with the overflow outside. It included just about the whole town, whose post office and library now honor the warrior they've lost.

Billy Hampton, returning to Iraq, says he honors the friend he thinks about every day.

"I'll get emotional. Nobody will be around me, i'll get emotional," he says while tearing up.

So of course do Dunham's parents.

On the back porch Jay asked his dad to build for his mom his dad says, "Some nights we sit out here for hours. I think he sits out here with us."