In April 2004, Dunham, a 22-year-old corporal, received a report that a Marine convoy had been ambushed, according to a Marine Corps account. Dunham led his men to the site near Husaybah, halting a convoy of departing cars. An insurgent in one of the vehicles grabbed him by the throat when he went to search the car and the two fought. A grenade was dropped, and Dunham covered the explosive with his Kevlar helmet, which along with his chest plate absorbed some of the blast.
He died a few days later.
"I've lost my son but he became a part of history," Dunham's mother, Deb, said after the ceremony. "It still hurts as a parent, but the pride that you have from knowing he did the right thing makes it easier."