by Lt.Col Steve Emerson USMC (Ret.)
In Iraq, on 14 April 2004, Lance Corporal Jason Duham jumped on a grenade and saved the lives of three Marines.
He used his body as a shield. He made this decision in a split second. He saw the grenade and intrinsically knew three of his fellow Marines were in grave danger. Without hesitation, he put his helmet over the grenade, dropped on top of his helmet and absorbed the blast with his body. Lance Corporal Dunham died. Three Marines lived.
The USS Jason Dunham was christened in 2009.
The Memorial Day holiday was established in 1868, just three years after the bloodiest war in our history. The holiday’s purpose is for Americans to pause, remember and reflect; to mourn those who had laid the ultimate sacrifice on the altar of freedom.
Memorial Day has become a holiday of contrasts; solemn in its purpose but has evolved over the years to a three day celebration. It’s the beginning of Summer. Families celebrate, take trips, and cook out with neighbors. Kids get a day off school with only a vague notion why.
Tell them why. Help your kids understand the significance of Memorial Day and why they have the day off. Take the time to tell them the story of Lance Corporal Jason Dunham or the story of the old man down the street whose cranky attitude toward your kids playing on his lawn is eclipsed by cosmic proportions by his four hours of magnificent bravery on the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War in November 1950. Let your kids know that the cranky old man was only 17 then. Most importantly, let them know that their country may ask the same of them.
Then take your kids to the beach or cook out with neighbors. Enjoy your friends and family and just for a brief moment think of the warriors, like Jason Dunham and the cranky old man, and respect their sacrifice.
Lt.Col Steve Emerson USMC (Ret.) currently serves as Chair of the Hillsborough County Republican Party's Veterans' and Military Affiars Committee.