Honor your hero with thoughts, memories, images and stories.
Ross Andrew McGinnis was born June 14, 1987 in Meadville, PA. We moved to Knox, PA, in Clarion County, when he was three. Ross attended Keystone Elementary School, and when he was in Kindergarten, he was asked to draw a picture of what he wanted to be when he grew up. He drew a picture of an "army man"(soldier). While growing up he played soccer through the YMCA and Little League baseball and was a member of the Boy Scouts. He graduated from Keystone Junior-Senior High School in 2005, and because of some bad decisions at the age of 14, he also attended the Keystone SMILES Community Learning Center as an alternative education while he was suspended from school for one term. The Ross McGinnis Memorial Service Award fund was started in Ross’ memory by an alumnus of the SMILES Learning Center to provide help with higher education costs for local students who have performed community service.
We remember our son Ross as a boy, rather than as a man, because we didn't get a chance to know him after he was grown up. He left for the Army just a few days after high school graduation, and then we only got to see him for two brief visits before he died. Ross was an energetic boy who couldn't sit still for very long. He liked to be up and moving, especially outside with his friends playing basketball or punishing his mountain bike. After he got his driver's license he became a car enthusiast and took classes at the Clarion County Career Center in automotive technology. Since he really enjoyed his experiences at the Career Center, he decided he wanted to become a performance car technician after his military service.
On his 17th birthday, June 14, 2004, which is also the birthday of the US Army, Ross went to the Army recruiting station and joined through the delayed entry program. Because of his bad decisions at age 14, Ross had to apply for a waiver in order to be accepted into the US Army. By studying, doing physical training and helping his recruiter, he earned the rank of Private First Class before he left home for basic training. While in basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, Ross seemed to enjoy the physical challenges and the extreme discipline that the Army required. After his Advanced Individual Training, Ross was assigned to 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment (Blue Spaders) in Schweinfurt, Germany. According to fellow Soldiers, he loved soldiering and took his job seriously, but he also loved to make people laugh. One fellow Soldier commented that every time Ross left a room, he left the soldiers in it laughing.
The unit deployed to Eastern Baghdad in August 2006, where sectarian violence was rampant. Ross served 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. He was quoted as saying, "I shoot big guns and get paid for it." The morning of the day he died, Ross had received a second waiver from the US Army. This time it was so that he could be promoted to Specialist 6 months earlier than the normal 2 years of service due to his exemplary conduct. The official promotion would have been awarded in January of 2007.
According to the official report:
"On the afternoon of Dec. 4, 2006, McGinnis’ platoon was on mounted patrol in Adhamiyah to restrict enemy movement and quell sectarian violence. During the course of the patrol, an unidentified insurgent positioned on a rooftop nearby threw a fragmentation grenade into the Humvee. Without hesitation or regard for his own life, McGinnis threw his back over the grenade, pinning it between his body and the Humvee’s radio mount. McGinnis absorbed all lethal fragments and the concussive effects of the grenade with his own body. McGinnis, who was a private first class at the time, was posthumously promoted to specialist. SPC McGinnis’s heroic actions and tragic death are detailed in the battlescape section of the US Army website and in his Medal of Honor Citation."
Medal of Honor, Silver Star (awarded as a temporary measure for valor exhibited during the events of Dec. 4, 2006, pending processing and approval of Medal of Honor), Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and Combat Infantryman Badge.
"Take a moment and look closely at this picture. This is me on my first day in Iraq standing next to my best friend, Ross McGinnis. We were both 19 then. Ross was the youngest man in our battalion. He was a goofy kid with a great sense of humor. He was so skinny you could almost count his ribs under his shirt. He hated PT as much as anyone. Not your typical 'American Sniper' type hero. But despite his non-heroic appearance, I'll wager you won't find a more heroic person. Nine years ago today, he sacrificed himself by lying on top of a hand grenade thrown into his vehicle, absorbing the blast and saving the other four soldiers inside his Humvee. Ross was killed instantly and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, our nation's highest award. For years, this day brought me grief, but now I take something else away from it: Love. Ross loved his country so much that he put aside personal liberties to join the Army during wartime at 18 years old. Ross loved his job so much that he did it without complaint every day through the worst of conditions. Ross loved his brothers so much that he literally died for them. I still grief his death and think about him daily (his picture is hanging on my office wall to remind me of his selfless sacrifice every day). But my love for him is greater than my grief. I appreciate what he did more every day. His single act of selflessness not only saved those four men, also my Brothers, but many of those men have since had children, who will one day have children of their own. It's impossible to predict just how many lives Ross's sacrifice will ultimately impact--how many lives he saved. It saddens me to see where our country's priorities lie. Ross's heroic sacrifice is largely unknown by the American people. Many hail sports stars or movie actors as heroes. But not me. For I have had the honor to know a true hero--to serve in a company of men cut from that same cloth. I will continue to carry on Ross's legacy throughout all of my days. I will tell my children about him, and my grandchildren. I'll share his story with neighbors and co-workers and family and friends. Because his story deserves to be known. His sacrifice deserves to be shared. And his Love deserves to be recognized and replicated. We can all take something away from Ross's story: Selflessness. Duty. Honor. Camaraderie. Love. What if that were the American standard? How great would our country be! For me, that is the standard! I love you, Ross. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. Thank you for your friendship. And thank you for your heroic example! I can't wait to see you again in Heaven one day, Brother. R.I.P. Specialist Ross Andrew McGinnis June 14, 1987 - December 4, 2006"