Ross McGinnis

Ross McGinnis—April 2007 Shipment Honoree

Helping wounded soldiers would rank high on Ross’s list of ways to honor his memory. He was a generous and loving person up to the last second of his life, and his army brothers were as much family to him as his Mom and Dad were.

God bless you for all that you do for our boys and girls risking their lives for democracy, freedom and justice.

Tom McGinnis, father of Ross A. McGinnis

Specialist who dove on grenade nominated for Medal of Honor

Source:  Arlington National Cemetery Website  
13 December 2006
By Michelle Tan
Courtesy of Army Times

Specialist Ross A. McGinnis has been nominated by his commanders for the Medal of Honor, said Major Sean Ryan, a spokesman for 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. On December 4, 2006, while on duty in Baghdad, Iraq, McGinnis used his body to smother a grenade, saving the lives of four fellow soldiers. McGinnis died from the blast.

McGinnis, 19, was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, which is attached to 2nd BCT.

McGinnis’ family will have a memorial service for him at 2 p.m. Sunday at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Knox, Pennsylvania. His remains will later be transferred to Arlington National Cemetery.

According to information provided Tuesday by Multi-National Division-Baghdad, McGinnis was manning the gunner’s hatch when an insurgent tossed a grenade from above. The grenade flew past McGinnis and down through the hatch before lodging near the radio.

His platoon sergeant, Sergeant First Class Cedric Thomas, was in the vehicle at the time.

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 could have escaped the blast, Thomas said. “He had time to jump out of the truck,” he said. “He chose not to. He gave his life to save his crew and his Platoon Sergeant. He’s a hero.”

Three of the soldiers in the vehicle with McGinnis suffered minor injuries. Two of them have returned to duty. The fourth soldier is recovering in Germany.

McGinnis was approved Monday for a Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor, according to a press release from MND-B. In it, he was referred to as a Private First Class. His company commander, Captain Michael Baka, had signed a waiver to promote McGinnis the morning he died. McGinnis was posthumously promoted to Specialist, Baka said.

Private First Class Ross McGinnis, 19, died December 4, 2006, from wounds received in Bahgdad, Iraq.

Born on June 14, 1987, in Meadville, Ross McGinnis was the son of Thomas and Romayne McGinnis of Shippenville. He was a 2005 graduate of Keystone Jr./Sr. High School and also attended Clarion County Career Center for automotive technology, where he participated in the student compass and performed as secretary/treasurer for the automotive department.

McGinnis also worked at McDonald’s on Perkins Road in Clarion during his high school years. He was a member of the Concert Choir in High School. Growing up, he was a member of Boy Scout Pack 56 starting as a Tiger Cub, then Cub Scout, Webelo Scout and Boy Scout. He played YMCA basketball and Soccer, and Little League Baseball with the Knox Association teams. He was a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Knox.

McGinnis enlisted in the U.S. Army on his 17th birthday in Pittsburgh through the Delayed Entry Program. On June 8, 2005, he left Pennsylvania for eight weeks of basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. After basic he had six weeks of Advanced Infantry Training, graduating in October 2005. He was then assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team 1st Infantry Division in Schweinfurt, Germany. He was deployed to Iraq in July 2006, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by two sisters, Becky McGinnis of Baltimore, Maryland, and Katie McGinnis of Monroeville; his maternal grandmother, Rosalind Knight of Knox; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. He met Christina Wendel of Ganheim, Bavaria in Germany, who he said was “the love of his life.”

A military memorial service will be held at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Twin Church Road in Knox, with full military honors, pastor Deborah Jacobson officiating. His remains will then be transferred to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The date and time of the memorial service will be announced as soon as possible.

The family suggests for anybody who wishes to make a memorial donation to send something to a service member overseas, a veteran or local service member and present it as a gift from PFC Ross McGinnis.

Statement From Parents of SPC Ross A. McGinnis, December 23, 2006

Source:, Tuesday, January 2, 2007

When the doorbell rang Monday evening December 4th, about 9:30, I wondered who would be visiting at this hour of the evening. But when I walked up to the door and saw two US Army officers standing on the patio at the bottom of the steps, I knew instantly what was happening. This is the only way the Army tells the next of kin that a soldier has died.

At that moment, I felt as if I had slipped off the edge of a cliff and there was nothing to grab onto; just a second beyond safety, falling into hell. If only my life could have ended just a moment before this so that I would not have to hear the words they were about to say. If only I could blink myself awake from this horrible dream. But it wasn’t a dream.

As the officers made their way into our living room, I rushed back into our bedroom and told my wife Romayne to get up; we had company. And they were going to tell us that Ross is dead. I knew of no other way to say it.

We rushed back out to meet the officers, and then the appointed spokesperson recited the standard message that Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis had been killed in action in Baghdad, Iraq, that day. They could tell us nothing more except that Army regulations required that the family be notified within 4 hours of the event. They offered their sympathy and support, and the Chaplain prayed for our strength in the days to come, and then they left us alone in shock, grief and disbelief.

In the days that followed, we were informed of the details of his death. The entire world probably knows those details now, since there was so much excitement about his heroic deed. Hundreds of family, friends and acquaintances offered us their words of prayer and comfort. But only time will take the edge off the knives that have wedged into our hearts.

Ross did not become OUR hero by dying to save his fellow soldiers from a grenade. He was a hero to us long before he died, because he was willing to risk his life to protect the ideals of freedom and justice that America represents. He has been recommended for the Medal of Honor, and many think that he deserves to get it without the typical 2 years that Congress has required of late. We, his parents, are in no hurry to have our son bestowed with this medal. That is not why he gave his life. The lives of four men who were his Army brothers outweighed the value of his one life. It was just a matter of simple kindergarten arithmetic. Four means more than one.

It didn’t matter to Ross that he could have escaped the situation without a scratch. Nobody would have questioned such a reflex reaction. What mattered to him were the four men placed in his care on a moment’s notice. One moment he was responsible for defending the rear of the convoy from enemy fire; the next moment he held the lives of four of his friends in his hands.

The choice for Ross was simple, but simple does not mean easy. His straightforward answer to a simple but difficult choice should stand as a shining example for the rest of us. We all face simple choices, but how often do we choose to make a sacrifice to get the right answer? The right choice sometimes requires honor.

Our Bible tells us that God gave up his only son to die for us so that we may live. But Romayne and I are not gods. We can’t see the future, and we didn’t give our son to die, knowing that he will live again. We gave him to fight and win and come home to us and marry and grow old and have children and grandchildren. But die he did, and his mother, dad and sisters must face that fact and go on without him, believing that someday we will meet again. Heaven is beyond our imagination and so we must wait to see what it’s like.

God bless everybody that has comforted us in our time of grief. But we must not forget the men and women who are still putting their lives on the line; we must keep them in our prayers and keep reminding them with gifts and letters that they are loved and that we want them to return safely to their families.

Ross’s Silver Star citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gunner in 1st Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, in connection with combat operations against an armed enemy in Adhamiyah (Northeast Baghdad), Iraq on the afternoon of 4 December 2006. PFC Ross McGinnis’ platoon was conducting a combat patrol to deny the enemy freedom of movement in Adhamiyah and reduce the high-level of sectarian violence in the form of kidnappings, weapons smuggling, and murders. 1st Platoon’s combat patrol moved deliberately along a major route north towards the Abu Hanifa mosque, passing an IED hole from a recent detonation on a Military Police patrol that very morning. The combat patrol made a left turn onto a side street southwest of the Abu Hanifa Mosque. There were two-story buildings and parked vehicles on either side of the road. PFC McGinnis was manning the M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gun on the Platoon Sergeant’s M1151 Up-armored HMMWV. His primary responsibility was to protect the rear of the combat patrol from enemy attacks. Moments after PFC McGinnis’ vehicle made the turn traveling southwest a fragmentation grenade was thrown at his HMMWV by an unidentified insurgent from an adjacent rooftop. He immediately yelled “grenade” on the vehicle’s intercom system to alert the four other members of his crew. PFC McGinnis made an attempt to personally deflect the grenade, but was unable to prevent it from falling through the gunner’s hatch. His Platoon Sergeant, the truck commander, was unaware that the grenade physically entered the vehicle and shouted “where?” to PFC McGinnis. When an average man would have leapt out of the gunner’s cupola to safety, PFC McGinnis decided to stay with his crew. Unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own life he announced “the grenade is in the truck” and threw his back over the grenade to pin it between his body and the truck’s radio mount. When the grenade detonated, PFC McGinnis absorbed all lethal fragments and the concussion with his own body killing him instantly. His early warning allowed all four members of his crew to position their bodies in a protective posture to prepare for the grenade’s blast. As a result of his quick reflexes and heroic measures, no other members of the vehicle crew were seriously wounded in the attack. His gallant action and total disregard for his personal well-being directly saved four men from certain serious injury or death. PFC McGinnis’ extraordinary heroism and selflessness at the cost of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in the keeping of the highest traditions of military service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.



McGinnis to receive Medal of Honor

By Michelle Tan – Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Apr 27, 2008 8:31:52 EDT

Spc. Ross McGinnis, who was killed Dec. 4, 2006, in Iraq when he smothered a grenade with his body, will receive the Medal of Honor, sources told Army Times.

McGinnis, 19, is the second soldier to receive the nation’s highest valor award for actions while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, who was killed April 4, 2003, fighting off insurgents in a fierce firefight south of Baghdad, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor two years after he died.

McGinnis, of 1st Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, is credited with saving the lives of four fellow soldiers.

On Dec. 4, 2006, McGinnis was manning the turret in the last Humvee of a six-vehicle patrol in Adhamiyah in northeast Baghdad when an insurgent threw a grenade from the roof of a nearby building.

“Grenade!” yelled McGinnis, who was manning the vehicle’s M2 .50-caliber machine gun.

McGinnis, facing backwards because he was in the rear vehicle, tried to deflect the grenade but it fell into the Humvee and lodged between the radios.

As he stood up to get ready to jump out of the vehicle, as he had been trained to do, McGinnis realized the other four soldiers in the Humvee did not know where the grenade had landed and did not have enough time to escape.

McGinnis, a native of Knox, Pa., threw his back against the radio mount, where the grenade was lodged, and smothered the explosive with his body.

The grenade exploded, hitting McGinnis on his sides and lower back, under his vest. He was killed instantly. The other four men survived.

McGinnis, who was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, will be honored during a ceremony at the White House. The ceremony is expected to take place sometime in June.

It’s longstanding Army policy not to comment on the status of Medal of Honor nominations. The sources who confirmed the information to Army Times asked to remain anonymous.

When contacted by Army Times, McGinnis’s parents declined to comment.

In addition to McGinnis and Smith, two other service members have received the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq: Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham and Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael Monsoor. Only one Medal of Honor has been awarded for actions in Afghanistan, to Lt. Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL.

Each of those awards was presented posthumously.

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