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WASHINGTON — President Bush on Friday announced that the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, will be awarded posthumously to Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham.

President Bush spoke at the dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., on the 231st birthday of the Corps.

“On this special birthday, in the company of his fellow Marines, I’m proud to announce our nation will recognize Cpl. Jason Dunham’s action with America’s highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor.

Shouts of “Oorah!” erupted from the crowd.

White House spokesman Tony Snow told Dunham’s story on Friday, a few hours before President Bush was to make a formal announcement.

“Let me tell you a little bit about Cpl. Dunham,” Snow said. “In April of 2004, he was leading a patrol of Marines in an Iraqi town near the Syrian border.

“When a nearby Marine convoy was ambushed, Cpl. Dunham led his squad to the site of the attack, where he and his men stopped a convoy of cars that were attempting to escape. As he moved to search one of the vehicles, an insurgent jumped out and grabbed Cpl. Dunham by the throat.

“The corporal engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat and, at one point, he shouted to fellow Marines, ‘No, no, no, watch his hand!’

“Moments later, a grenade rolled out. Cpl. Dunham jumped on the grenade to protect his fellow Marines, using his helmet and body to absorb the blast,” Snow said.

Dunham was critically wounded in the explosion and died eight days later at Bethesda Naval Hospital near Washington, D.C.

Dunham, from Scio, N.Y., would have been 25 years old yesterday. He will be the second American to receive the Medal of Honor from service in Iraq.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith was the other, honored in April 2003, in which he killed as many as 50 enemy combatants while helping wounded comrades to safety. Smith was the only U.S. soldier killed in the battle.

“His was a selfless act of courage to save his fellow Marines,” Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Huff of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, was quoted as saying in Marine Corps News that April.

“He knew what he was doing,” Lance Cpl. Jason A. Sanders, 21, of McAllester, Okla., who was in Dunham’s company, was quoted as saying by Marine Corps News. “He wanted to save Marines’ lives from that grenade.”

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