KIA October 27, 2011
Operation Enduring Freedom
Assigned to 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan
EOD SSgt Stephen Dunning was killed when the IED he disarmed triggered a booby trap explosion while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
From an early age Stephen knew he wanted to be a Marine. He was hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps who flew helicopters in the Marine Corps while Stephen was growing up. Stephen was an incredibly intelligent person and enjoyed problem solving, puzzles and working with his hands, and even made models of the helicopters that his dad flew.
After joining the Marines in April 1999, Stephen spent most of his career in Okinawa, Japan. He originally specialized in calibrating and repairing electronics, including the air traffic control computers. Although he had what some considered a “safe” job, Stephen felt purpose in combining his skills and calm demeanor to train to become an EOD tech. In March 2008 he made a lateral move to Explosive Ordinance Disposal, spending the next 14 months training with Naval School Explosive Ordinance Disposal, graduating in May 2009.
“He left a relatively safe job in the Marines for EOD. When asked why, he simply said it was his way of ‘living a selfless life,’” his father, Robert Dunning said.
Stephen, although sometimes quiet and reserved, was fiercely loyal to his brothers-in-arms and always worked to take care of his men. He often volunteered to take assignments on high-tempo deployments to ease the burden of married Marines.
“Steve believed in putting 110% into whatever he did, and respected those that did the same. He avoided the spotlight, instead working tirelessly behind the scenes. He made lifelong friends and would give someone in need the shirt off his back,” his father said.
Having served 11 years in the Marine Corps, Stephen was a month and a half into his second deployment to Afghanistan when he was killed. In addition to his father, Stephen is survived by his mother Tomoe, brother David, and sister, Joy.
SSgt Stephen Dunning was 31 years old from Milpitas, California
The original portrait was delivered Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2017 to his father, Robert Dunning and family during a special event held by the Airpower Foundation.