Project Hero: PFC Ross A. McGinnis, Medal of Honor Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, December 16, 2006
UPDATE: PFC McGinnis's award of the Silver Star was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
PFC Ross McGinnis had a choice to make, and he made it. The result of that choice cost him his life, but saved the lives of 4 of his comrades. His sacrifice gives you just an inkling of the strength of the bond combat soldiers develop during their time together. When all is said and done, they don't fight for country or flag, they fight for each other:
Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis packed only 136 pounds into his 6-foot frame, but few have ever matched his inner strength.
McGinnis sacrificed himself in an act of supreme bravery on Dec. 4, belying his status as the youngest Soldier in Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
The 19-year-old amateur mechanic from Knox, Pa., who enjoyed poker and loud music, likely saved the lives of four Soldiers riding with him on a mission in Baghdad.
McGinnis was manning the gunner’s hatch when an insurgent tossed a grenade from above. It flew past McGinnis and down through the hatch before lodging near the radio.
His platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Cedric Thomas of Longview, Texas, recalled what happened next.
“Pfc. McGinnis yelled ‘Grenade. It’s in the truck,’” Thomas said. “I looked out of the corner of my eye as I was crouching down and I saw him pin it down.”
McGinnis did so even though he could have escaped.
“He had time to jump out of the truck,” Thomas said. “He chose not to.”
Thomas remembered McGinnis talking about how he would respond in such a situation. McGinnis said then he didn’t know how he would act, but when the time came, he delivered.
“He gave his life to save his crew and his platoon sergeant,” Thomas said. “He’s a hero. He’s a professional. He was just an awesome guy.”
Three of the Soldiers with McGinnis who were wounded that day have returned to duty, while a fourth is recovering in Germany.
For saving the lives of his friends and giving up his own in the process, McGinnis earned the Silver Star, posthumously. His unit paid their final respects in a somber ceremony here Dec. 11.
McGinnis was born June 14, 1987, and joined the Army right after graduating high school in 2005. He had been in the Army 18 months and made his mark even before his heroic deed.
“He was a good kid,” said C Company’s senior enlisted Soldier, 1st Sgt. Kenneth J. Hendrix. “He had just gotten approved for a waiver to be promoted to specialist.”
He also appeared on the Nov. 30 cover of Stars & Stripes, manning his turret.
Besides his military accomplishments, McGinnis leaves his friends and family with memories of a fun-loving, loyal man.
Private First Class Brennan Beck, a 1-26 infantryman from Lodi, Calif., said McGinnis made others feel better.
“He would go into a room and when he left, everyone was laughing,” Beck said. “He did impersonations of others in the company. He was quick-witted, just hilarious. He loved making people laugh. He was a comedian through and through.”
While having a witty side, McGinnis took his job seriously.
“He was not a garrison Soldier. He hated it back in garrison,” Beck said. “He loved it here in Iraq. He loved being a gunner. It was a thrill, he loved everything about it. He was one our best Soldiers. He did a great job.”
Beck has memories of talking all night with McGinnis about where they wanted their lives to go, and said McGinnis always remembered his friends.
“When I had my appendix removed, he was the only one who visited me in the hospital,” Beck said. “That meant a lot.”
Another 1-26 infantryman, Private First ClassMichael Blair of Klamath Falls, Ore., recalled that McGinnis helped him when he arrived at Ledward Barracks in Schweinfurt, Germany.
“When I first came to the unit…he was there and took me in and showed me around,” Blair said. “He was real easy to talk to. You could tell him anything. He was a funny guy. He was always making somebody laugh.”
McGinnis’ final heroic act came as no surprise to Blair.
“He was that kind of person,” Blair said. “He would rather take it himself than have his buddies go down.”
The brigade’s senior noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. William Johnson, also had high praise for McGinnis.
“Anytime when you get a Soldier to do something like that - to give his life to protect his fellow Soldiers - that’s what heroes are made of,” Johnson said.
Rest in Peace. There are 4 brothers in arms who will forever remember you and your sacrifice. And so should we all.
PROJECT HERO is an ongoing attempt to highlight the valor of our military as they fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We constantly hear the negative and far to little of the positive and inspiring stories coming out of those countries. This is one small attempt to rectify that. If you know of a story of valor you'd like to see highlighted here (published on Saturday), please contact us. And we'd appreciate your link so we can spread the word.
There are time when we see the younger generation as lazy, self centered, self absorbed and most times not deserving of the freedoms that have been bestowed upon them by men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Then you hear of a young man who made that ultimate sacrifice and embodies the word “HERO”. I am a veteran and served my country proudly. I was brought to tears when I heard the story about PFC ROSS MCGINNIS. This young man gave his life to save those of his fellow soldiers and restored my faith and confidence in our youth. I and my family send their heart felt condolences to the family of this brave young man and you must know that every veteran of this county will stand and salute him when we all meet in heaven someday.
Even though i Didn’t know Ross, I belive he was a Great man, and son to his parents. I saw this on the news, Yesterday. (Jan 9th 07) After seeing this My life just, stopped. I wish I could be that herotic that I could save someones life like that, more like 4 lives. Ross, Your a great man, and I now think of you as a hero. Thanks for what you have done to Save 4 others instead of yourself. You wern’t self centered, and Thats a good thing in this world. RIP. lovelove.
i just watched the story on him last night,and decided to do him for my journalism project. i couldn’t have picked a better story. he truly seemed like an amazing person and im glad to get to be the person to share his story to my class.