The first time I met Jonathan Paul Dunham was sometime in the Fall of 2002. My son was a Freshman at Bearden High School in West Knoxville and had signed up for the Navy Junior R.O.T.C. course. Mr. Dunham, a Senior, was cadet Commanding Officer of the Bulldog Company, N.J.R.O.T.C. I had heard Mr. Dunham's name quite a bit before I met him as my son absolutely hero worshipped him.
After Mr. Dunham graduated from Bearden High School in May, 2003, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. I was able to keep up with him through my son and the associate Naval Science Instructor at Bearden, Gunny Cramer, a retired Marine after 20 years. Mr. Dunham came back to visit the Bearden students after boot camp looking like a proper spit and polish U.S. Marine.
Through the years, I knew that Mr. Dunham had several deployments, separated from the Marines, got married, enrolled at the University of Tennessee and had children. Thanks to Facebook, I knew that he had graduated from the University of Tennessee and was working. Mr. Dunham's undergraduate degree is in Enterprise Management and International Business. He was a Global Leadership Scholar, an honors program in the University of Tennessee College of Business.
The other day on Facebook I saw a status from Mr. Dunham that piqued my curiosity. That Facebook status stated:
If you are considering a future in the military, before you consider what job you wish to do, before you consider which branch to join, before you even consider potential benefit comparisons, you must first ask yourself two questions. First, is the liberty and security of your people more important to you that the breath you draw? Second, are you willing to place your own petty ambitions, needs, and wants beneath the accomplishment of the mission? If the answer to either of these questions is "No". Do not join the military? You will be joining for the wrong reasons."
I messaged him and asked if we could meet for an interview to discuss the motivation for the post. Mr. Dunham agreed and we met at Cool Beans on the University of Tennessee campus to talk. First, I want to say that I thought Cool Beans was a coffee house from both the name and the menu. It is a bar. Second, the salsa at Cool Beans is vile.
Mr. Dunham was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, Easy Company and participated in the First Battle of Fallujah. His unit captured several Gitmo detainees and numerous Abu Ghraib prisoners. He has seen and done a great deal in his four years with the Marines.
So, what did bring on the above quote. According to Mr. Dunham, an employee was talking about joining the military for the benefits. As someone who has been in combat and had to deny to himself personal needs, it is painful for him to hear someone talking so casually about this type of commitment. He said that "the Internet has made luxury a necessity" and that possibly "this next generation is a lost generation".
Mr. Dunham talked about watching five corpsmen run out without cover to take care of wounded during a battle. This is what one has to consider when making a military commitment. He asks if the internet generation understands this type of commitment.
On the other hand, with young people like Mr. Dunham as our future leaders, we could raise a new generation of Americans who understand service and commitment.