U.S. Navy Destroyer Named After WNY Native Jason Dunham

November 14, 2010 Updated Nov 14, 2010 at 7:55 PM EDT

By WKBW Programming

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November 14, 2010 Updated Nov 14, 2010 at 7:55 PM EDT

PORT EVERGLADES, FL ( WPLG-WKBW) A new U.S. Navy missile destroyer was commissioned Saturday morning named after Scio, New York native Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham.

While pomp and circumstance kicked off the commissioning ceremony, the man whose name marked the 510-foot long missile destroyer, and the sacrifice he made, was on everyone's mind.

"He was the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor in the War on Terror, and the first Marine to receive the highest honor since the Vietnam War," said U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla.

The ship is named after Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham, 22. Dunham threw himself on a live grenade in 2004 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Officials said his actions saved at least two fellow Marines.

Sailors who will serve aboard the destroyer said they are humbled by Dunham's sacrifice.

"It's truly a privilege and an honor, and there's a genuine feeling of camaraderie and pride to be able to bear Jason's name for his extraordinary actions and selflessness that he had that he displayed over in Iraq," said Lt. Shola Whitworth.

Leading the honors Saturday, were Dunham's parents who took center stage onboard the $1 billion vessel.

In an emotional and passionate speech, Dunham's mother told the men and women who would serve on the destroyer that they would always have a guardian angel watching over them. Mrs. Dunham then called for the crew to "bring this ship to life."

The missile destroyer brought its crew of 250 sailors into port at 10 a.m. Friday amid a water cannon salute. A piece of Dunham's Kevlar helmet is incorporated into the ship's mast.

For a link to the photo gallery from ABC affiliate WPLG, go to "news links" at wkbw.com