Next in our Medal of Honor series, which honors our Medal of Honor recipients, is the story about Ross McGinnis.
McGinnis, who served in the Army, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously on June 2, 2008 for his courageous actions on Dec. 4, 2006, in Iraq. He was the fourth service member to receive the Medal of Honor during the Iraq War.
McGinnis was born on Flag Day (June 14), 1987 in Meadville, Pa. to Tom and Romayne McGinnis. He and his two sisters — Becky and Katie — grew up in Knox just northeast of Pittsburgh. He was a member of the Boy Scouts and played basketball, soccer and baseball.
McGinnis also enjoyed video games, mountain biking and cars — he planned to study automotive technology after the Army and pursue a career working on high-performance vehicles.
From a very young age McGinnis desired to serve his country. When asked in kindergarten what he wanted to be when he grew up, he answered, “(an) Army man.”
On his 17th birthday, McGinnis went to the local recruiting station and enlisted through the Delayed Entry Program.
McGinnis was assigned to 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment in Schweinfurt, Germany after he completed Basic Training at Fort Benning, Ga.
According to fellow soldiers, McGinnis loved the Army. He was also a fun-loving and loyal man. He enjoyed making people laugh.
“He would go into a room and when he left, everyone was laughing,” said Pfc. Brennan Beck, a fellow soldier. “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.”
McGinnis is also remembered for caring for his fellow soldiers.
“When I had my appendix removed, he was the only one who visited me in the hospital,” Beck said. “That meant a lot.”
Another soldier, Pfc. Michael Blair, recalled how McGinnis helped him when he first arrived to Schweinfurt.
“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.”
McGinnis’ unit deployed to Eastern Baghdad in August 2006, where sectarian violence was rampant. Ross was serving as an M2 .50 caliber machine gunner in 1st Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment in support of operations against insurgents in Adhamiyah, Iraq.
Medal of Honor Action
On Dec. 4, 2006, McGinnis was serving as a machine gunner in connection with combat operations against armed insurgents in Northeast Baghdad.
In the afternoon, his platoon was on a mission in an effort to reduce and control sectarian violence in the area. While he was manning the M2 .50-caliber Machine Gun on his HMMWV, an insurgent threw a fragmentation grenade at the vehicle. It fell through the gunner’s hatch and into the HMMWV.
McGinnis reacted quickly and yelled, “grenade,” which allowed his comrades to prepare for the explosion. Instead of getting out of the vehicle for safety, McGinnis decided to leap onto the grenade, covering it with his body. With the grenade trapped between him and the vehicle, McGinnis’ body absorbed most of the blast.
Private McGinnis’ quick and heroic action directly saved four men from certain serious injury or death.
Shortly after his death, McGinnis’ parents issued a statement that expressed his dedication to duty and country:
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.
Photos courtesy U.S. Army