b. 14/06/1987 Meadville, Pennsylvania. d. 04/12/2006 Adhamiyah, near Baghdad, Iraq.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 04/12/2006 Adhamiyah, Iraq.
McGinnis was born on June 14, 1987, in Meadville, Pennsylvania, to parents Tom and Romayne McGinnis. He had two sisters, Becky and Katie. When McGinnis was 3, the family moved about an hour southeast to Knox, Pennsylvania, where he went to Clarion County public schools, was a Boy Scout and played baseball, basketball and soccer.
As a teen, McGinnis worked part-time at a McDonald’s and became a car enthusiast. He took classes at a nearby career center in automotive technology in the hopes of one day becoming an auto mechanic in the military — something he’d desired to be a part of since childhood. His mother said that during kindergarten, when he was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he drew a picture of a soldier. McGinnis got involved as soon as he could. In June 2004, on his 17th birthday, he enlisted in the Army through its delayed entry program. After he graduated from Keystone Junior-Senior High School in 2005, he officially became a soldier.
After basic training, McGinnis was sent to serve in Schweinfurt, Germany. In August 2006, his unit, the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, was deployed to Iraq. He was only there for four months before he made the ultimate sacrifice for his fellow soldiers.
On December 4, 2006, then-Pfc. McGinnis was serving as a machine gunner in Company C in the north eastern part of Baghdad. His platoon was working to control sectarian violence in the area, which was rampant at the time. During that afternoon, while McGinnis was in position at the back of his vehicle, an insurgent threw a grenade from a roof, and it fell into McGinnis’ Humvee. The private first class reacted quickly, yelling “Grenade!” to warn his four fellow soldiers stuck in the vehicle with him.
Instead of saving his own life by escaping through the gunnery hatch — as he was trained to do — McGinnis, who was the youngest in his platoon at 19, chose to give his own life to protect his crew, diving onto the live grenade to shield them from the blast. He died immediately.
The other soldiers in the vehicle with him — Sgt. 1st Class Cedric Thomas, the platoon sergeant and truck commander; Staff Sgt. Ian Newland, the squad leader; Sgt. Lyle Buehler, the driver; and medic Spc. Sean Lawson all survived thanks to his bravery and selflessness.
Shortly after his death, McGinnis’ parents released a statement about him that said in part, “The lives of four men who were his Army brothers outweighed the value of his one life. … 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.”
On June 2, 2008, former President George W. Bush presented McGinnis’ parents with the Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony. His sisters and the soldiers he helped save were also in attendance. McGinnis was posthumously promoted to specialist and also received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
“I know medals never crossed his mind. He was always about friendships and relationships,” McGinnis’ father later said. “He just took that to the ultimate this time.”
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 4 December 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.
BURIAL LOCATION: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA.
SECTION 60, GRAVE 8544.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: 1ST INFANTRY DIVISION MUSEUM, CANTIGNY, WHEATON, ILLINOIS.