Memorial day is the one day set aside in this country to remember those who have paid the ultimate price to keep this country free. It is the one day where their ultimate sacrifice is remembered and they are our heroes. I would like to introduce one such hero and allow him to be the face of this very important day.
Ross A. McGinnis was born on June 14th 1987 to Romayne and Tom McGinnis in Meadville PA. As a young boy his family moved to Knox PA where he became active in the Boy Scouts and multiple sports. Ross’ parents stated that even as a young boy, he had his sights set on a military career even writing a paper in kindergarten named "When I grow up I want to be an Army Man." Much of his early years were spent dreaming about becoming a warrior in the United States Army.
Ross continued with his plans to enter the Army by enlisting in the Delayed Entry Program when he was 17 and then saw his dream come to fruition when he entered basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia. After completing his basic training, Ross was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, in Ledward Barracks, in Schweinfurt, Germany. Nearly his first year in the military went by with no action and he remained in Germany until in August of 2006, at age 19, when his unit deployed to Iraq.
Ross was assigned to the .50 caliber roof mounted machine gun of the Humvee in his unit. After only four months of service inside Iraq, on December 4th, his unit came under fire from insurgents. Shortly after the firefight had began, a grenade was thrown into his vehicle. Ross screamed out to his fellow soldiers that the grenade was in their truck so that they could brace for the explosion. But what he did next would define this young mans life and the courage he had.
Gunners are taught to exit through the upper hatch when a live ordinance enters the truck. If they move quick enough they are assured little to no damage from the resulting blast. But Ross knew that while he would most likely escape without injury, his fellow warriors stuck inside the truck would take the full blast of the grenade which would more than likely kill each and every one of them. Ross made that split second decision that separates the men from the heroes. After he had screamed the warning to the other men, Ross threw himself on the grenade absorbing the blast into his back, killing him instantly. His heroic decision cost him his young life, but saved the other four men in his Humvee. It is believed that without his protection, all would have been killed.
At age 19, Ross McGinnis gave his life so that other could live and carry on the fight. His heroic actions put him in an esteemed place as only three others since the beginning of the Iraq war have been known to sacrifice their lives by throwing themselves on a live grenade. These fellow heroes are Corporal Jason Dunham, Navy Seal Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor, Sergent Rafael Peralta. His actions brought him an honored burial at the Arlington Cemetery, section 60, site 8544 and the Medal of Honor which was only the fourth given out at that time for actions performed in the Iraqi war.
The Medal of Honor Citation read as follows:
Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an M2 .50-caliber Machine Gunner, 1st Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, in connection with combat operations against an armed enemy in Adhamiyah, Northeast Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2006. That afternoon his platoon was conducting combat control operations in an effort to reduce and control sectarian violence in the area. While Private McGinnis was manning the M2 .50-caliber Machine Gun, a fragmentation grenade thrown by an insurgent fell through the gunner’s hatch into the vehicle. Reacting quickly, he yelled "grenade," allowing all four members of his crew to prepare for the grenade’s blast. Then, rather than leaping from the gunner’s hatch to safety, Private McGinnis made the courageous decision to protect his crew. In a selfless act of bravery, in which he was mortally wounded, Private McGinnis covered the live grenade, pinning it between his body and the vehicle and absorbing most of the explosion. Private McGinnis’ gallant action directly saved four men from certain serious injury or death. Private First Class McGinnis’ extraordinary heroism and selflessness at the cost of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
This day is a special day in this country and should be a day where we remember all those who have died building this country and keeping it free. It takes blood to save our freedoms and it takes a special person who is willing to shed their blood to protect the country they love. Let us never forget those who have died for us.