The Real Fight Is Here at Home

Fallujah, California

On our refrigerator door, we have posted photos and stories of Marines who have lost their lives in the Iraq war.  Among them are Cpl. Jason Dunham and Lance Cpl. Aaron Austin.  Dunham was 22 when he dived onto a grenade to protect his buddies in K Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.  A top high-school athlete from Scio, New York, he wanted to become a state trooper one day.  In the Corps, he became a machine gunner and was leading a squad manning a checkpoint near Husaybah when an Iraqi leaped from a car with a grenade in his hand.  Dunham wrestled him to the ground, warned off other Marines, and smothered the grenade with his body.  Grievously wounded, Dunham was airlifted to Bethesda Naval Hospital.  He hung on for a week before dying, his mother and father at his side, each holding a hand of their son.  For his sacrifice, he became the first American recommended for the Medal of Honor in the Iraq war.

Reared in Texas and New Mexico, 21-year-old Aaron Austin was also a machine gunner.  He arrived in Iraq with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, for his second tour of duty.  As fate would have it, 2/1 was chosen to lead the assault on Fallujah.  Austin and his machine-gun crew supported squads of riflemen fighting their way, building by building, through the insurgent stronghold.  Just when the action seemed to subside for a time and he had his gun positioned on a building...

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