By Shannon Collins, DoD News
As the twin towers fell to a terrorist attack on 9/11, a 10th-grader knew he wanted to do something about it.
His family has those who serve, or have served, in the Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force, but Marine Corps Staff Sgt. James Dunaway said watching the towers fall motivated him to join the Marines.
For almost 13 years, he’s served as an infantry unit leader, stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. He has severe post-traumatic stress disorder from serving 35 months in combat during multiple back-to- back tours to Iraq from 2005 to 2008, and to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011. During that time, as a squad leader, he led more than 130 combat patrols in Iraq, and more than 120 combat patrols in Afghanistan. He performed over 400 combat missions during his tours.
Road to Recovery
From 2008 to 2009, between his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Dunaway said he was drinking, partying and having anger issues while stationed with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines in Hawaii. He sought out thrill-seeking adventures such as sky diving, swimming with sharks and spearfishing. He started getting treatment for PTSD, but didn’t take it seriously until he met his wife, Arelene, an Army veteran. They’ve been married seven years and have Eva, 4, and J.D., 2.
“I need to get sober; I need to straighten up and be a father and a husband because the Marine Corps [is] going to stop and I’m going to continue and I want to continue successfully,” he said. “She’s my rock, and I’m hers as well. She’s served so she knows what it’s like to be in the military so it’s a little bit easier for me to talk to her.”
Dunaway is proud not only of his wife, but of his children as well. “Having a daughter was probably the greatest thing to ever happen to me; she’s daddy’s little girl. My son, he’s huge. He’s a monster,” he said laughingly.
Participating in Warrior Games
Dunaway will compete here in the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games in air pistol, standing air rifle and compound archery for the Marines.
Growing up in Lithia, Florida, shooting shotguns with his family, he hopes to do well in the air pistol and rifle rounds but said they can be tricky.
“I think I’m going to do well in rifle, but then again, with pistol, you’ve got to focus a little more,” he said. During the Marine trials, he earned a gold medal in the pistol and a bronze in archery. “I want to leave here with something around my neck,” he said.
Dunaway said he’s excited to share the experience with his wife this week while his mother-in-law watches the kids at home, and he’s grateful to the city of Chicago for their support.
“I want to thank the city of Chicago for welcoming us here and the fact they’ve got the posters and signs up all over the place here. It’s also great to see other nations here competing, Australia and the United Kingdom.”
Dunaway recommends events like the Warrior Games or any adaptive sports to anyone who may be wounded, ill or injured.
“It’s worth it, and set yourself some goals. I do shooting, archery, cycling and in each one, I set a goal for myself,” he said. “Find something you think you would like and then set yourself a goal within that. Once you reach that goal, set yourself another goal so you always continue to climb. It’s going to get better.”
From 10th-grader to squad leader in Iraq, to a competitor at the Warrior Games, Dunaway said that even though he has severe PTSD, “I am happy to have said that I’ve served. I’m absolutely happy I can say that.”
About 265 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command, United Kingdom and the Australian Defense Force armed forces are competing in shooting, archery, cycling, track and field, swimming, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.