Both tears and smiles filled the room as memorial services for , the Marine from Milpitas killed in Afghanistan just over two weeks ago, were held in San Jose on Saturday.
During the emotional services, many paid their respects, but also recalled happy memories of the 31-year-old, who graduated from Milpitas High School in 1998.
Dunning was killed in Afghanistan on Oct. 27. He was an explosive ordnance disposal technician, and was attempting to disarm a bomb in the Helmand province when he was killed.
The memorial service was well attended by family, friends, military service personnel, and even members of the local Milpitas Fire Department.
During the service, several videos were played. The first showed Dunning's body returning home, and the others were slideshows put together by his family, featuring stories and comments from throughout his life.
“Steve was so much more than the son and friend we all loved; he was a United States Marine,” said Robert Dunning, Stephen’s father, who was also a Marine, after the first video of Stephen’s body being brought home was shown.
Robert said that Stephen has already been buried in Kentucky, where his father, Stephen’s grandfather, visits him often.
“We just went through all the pictures, and it was really comforting to the family to laugh and remember them,” Robert said. “As all of us have kids now - kids aren’t smiling all the time, but he just had a gentleness to him and a great love of life since the day he was born.”
Dunning’s brother, David, spoke about the deep loss he feels for his brother.
“I have never lost anything I wanted back so dearly,” David said. “I’d like to thank all the service men and women out there, especially present company, for your honor, courage and commitment.”
David also mentioned how Stephen taught him what it meant to be “selfless.”
At the memorial service, Stephen’s parents were given the Purple Heart that Stephen was awarded posthumously.
After the one of the last videos was played, Robert said, “I put that video together for everyone to know Steve died doing what he loved.”
One picture shown in a video was a snapshot of a short essay Stephen wrote in the second grade, in which he said he wanted to grow up to be a Marine, like his father.
Dunning was a Marine for 12 years, and was a month and a half into his second tour in Afghanistan when he died.
Dunning is survived by his parents, Robert and Tomoe Dunning of Milpitas; his brother, David Dunning of Milpitas; his sister, Joy and her husband, B.J. Coy of Kirkland, Washington; his grandparents, Jim and Olga Dunning of Lyon County, Kentucky and Marie and Carl Welch of Konawa, Oklahoma, and Gary and Yoshiko Watson of Yokosuka, Japan; and his great-grandmother, Mary Watson of Everett, Washington.
In lieu of flowers, the family would like those interested to consider a donation in Stephen’s name to the Wounded EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Warrior Fund or to the Jubilee Christian Center.