The Nascar Memorial Day race has a tradition – each year, the drivers put the names of fallen military heroes on their windshields. This year, Nascar via the American Legion chose Marine Cpl Jason Dunham, a posthumous Medal of Honor Recipient. The race will be held on May 30 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. There are numerous other names of the fallen on the windshields of the cars, but Dunham is believed to be the only Medal of Honor recipient for this year’s race.
Commander Stephen Puskas gave Kurt Busch a tour of the ship named after Cpl Dunham
“It’s incredible, the amount of pride that every sailor takes in this boat and the amount of patriotism that you feel just walking aboard makes you proud to be an American,” Busch said. “It’s our honor to carry this name on our windshield.”
The car that Kurt Busch will drive in the race was unveiled on the dock next to the USS Jason L . Dunham. The American Legion chose Dunham’s name after receiving permission from the family. This year’s team sponsor, GearWrench invited the Dunham family to the race, but they stated they had another commitment that day. They were deeply honored that their son’s name will be remembered.
Busch posed for photos as he handled one of the .50-caliber machine guns on the bow. Then he pulled out a Jason Dunham “Always Faithful, Always Strong” challenge coin that the fallen Marine’s mother had surprised him with.
“This is way too much for me to hold and keep forever,” Busch said. “I will race with this challenge coin in my left pocket for the Coca-Cola 600 in a few weeks. … But I won’t keep it. It needs to go back to her and the family. It’s quite an honor to be able to do this.”
Given an American flag that has flown on the ship, Busch said it will wave over their pit box at the race.
Cpl Jason Dunham – The Medal of Honor
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Rifle Squad Leader, 4th Platoon, Company K, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines (Reinforced), Regimental Combat Team 7, First Marine Division (Reinforced), on 14 April 2004, Corporal Dunham’s squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in the town of Karabilah, Iraq, when they heard rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire erupt approximately two kilometers to the west. Corporal Dunham led his Combined Anti-Armor Team towards the engagement to provide fire support to their Battalion Commander’s convoy, which had been ambushed as it was traveling to Camp Husaybah. As Corporal Dunham and his Marines advanced, they quickly began to receive enemy fire. Corporal Dunham ordered his squad to dismount their vehicles and led one of his fire teams on foot several blocks south of the ambushed convoy.
Discovering seven Iraqi vehicles in a column attempting to depart, Corporal Dunham and his team stopped the vehicles to search them for weapons. As they approached the vehicles, an insurgent leaped out and attacked Corporal Dunham. Corporal Dunham wrestled the insurgent to the ground and in the ensuing struggle saw the insurgent release a grenade. Corporal Dunham immediately alerted his fellow Marines to the threat. Aware of the imminent danger and without hesitation, Corporal Dunham covered the grenade with his helmet and body, bearing the brunt of the explosion and shielding his Marines from the blast. In an ultimate and selfless act of bravery in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of at least two fellow Marines. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Corporal Dunham gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
MOH citation for Cpl Jason Dunham
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Author: Faye Higbee
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