Archive Logo.jpg

December 12, 2006

Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis

Someone you should know.

Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq – Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis packed only 136 pounds into his 6-foot frame, but few have ever matched his inner strength.

McGinnis sacrificed himself in an act of supreme bravery on Dec. 4, belying his status as the youngest Soldier in Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

The 19-year-old amateur mechanic from Knox , Pa. , who enjoyed poker and loud music, likely saved the lives of four Soldiers riding with him on a mission in Baghdad .

McGinnis was manning the gunner’s hatch when an insurgent tossed a grenade from above. It flew past McGinnis and down through the hatch before lodging near the radio.

His platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Cedric Thomas of Longview , Texas , recalled what happened next.

“Pfc. 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 did so even though he could have escaped.

“He had time to jump out of the truck,” Thomas said. “He chose not to.”

Thomas remembered McGinnis talking about how he would respond in such a situation. McGinnis said then he didn’t know how he would act, but when the time came, he delivered.

“He gave his life to save his crew and his platoon sergeant,” Thomas said. “He’s a hero. He’s a professional. He was just an awesome guy.”

Three of the Soldiers with McGinnis who were wounded that day have returned to duty, while a fourth is recovering in Germany .

For saving the lives of his friends and giving up his own in the process, McGinnis earned the Silver Star, posthumously. His unit paid their final respects in a somber ceremony here Dec. 11.

McGinnis was born June 14, 1987, and joined the Army right after graduating high school in 2005. He had been in the Army 18 months and made his mark even before his heroic deed.

“He was a good kid,” said C Company’s senior enlisted Soldier, 1st Sgt. Kenneth J. Hendrix. “He had just gotten approved for a waiver to be promoted to specialist.”

He also appeared on the Nov. 30 cover of Stars & Stripes, manning his turret.

Besides his military accomplishments, McGinnis leaves his friends and family with memories of a fun-loving, loyal man.

Private First Class Brennan Beck, a 1-26 infantryman from Lodi , Calif. , said McGinnis made others feel better.

“He would go into a room and when he left, everyone was laughing,” Beck said. “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.”

While having a witty side, McGinnis took his job seriously.

“He was not a garrison Soldier. He hated it back in garrison,” Beck said. “He loved it here in Iraq . He loved being a gunner. It was a thrill, he loved everything about it. He was one our best Soldiers. He did a great job.”

Beck has memories of talking all night with McGinnis about where they wanted their lives to go, and said McGinnis always remembered his friends.

“When I had my appendix removed, he was the only one who visited me in the hospital,” Beck said. “That meant a lot.”

Another 1-26 infantryman, Private First ClassMichael Blair of Klamath Falls , Ore. , recalled that McGinnis helped him when he arrived at Ledward Barracks in Schweinfurt , Germany .

“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. You could tell him anything. He was a funny guy. He was always making somebody laugh.”

McGinnis’ final heroic act came as no surprise to Blair.

“He was that kind of person,” Blair said. “He would rather take it himself than have his buddies go down.”

The brigade’s senior noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. William Johnson, also had high praise for McGinnis.

“Anytime when you get a Soldier to do something like that - to give his life to protect his fellow Soldiers - that’s what heroes are made of,” Johnson said.

It also demonstrates, Johnson continued, that the ‘MySpace Generation’ has what it takes to carry on the Army’s proud traditions.

“Some think Soldiers who come in today are all about themselves,” Johnson said. “I see it differently.”

The Silver Star has already been approved for McGinnis’ actions Dec.4, and will be awarded posthumously.

Well done, PFC McGinnis. Requiescat Im Pace.

However, I have a question. Is the Silver Star a final award, or an interim? Why do I ask? Glad you asked. This is why:


What do these 39 men have in common? They all, in one way or another, fell on grenades to save the lives of others around them. Some were involved in hairy fights, some were isolated incidents. Few of them survived.

In other words, they all acted as did PFC McGinnis.

The difference? All the names listed above, except for PFC McGinnis, recieved the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War. And that's only from the A-L list, not the M-Z list.

And that doesn't include WWII or WWI, which I don't have time to go through.

So, I hope this is an *interim* award. I've asked. I'll let you know if I get an answer.

Now is the time at Castle Argghhh! when we dance: In Memoriam.

Update: Glad I asked. I just got this (of course, right *after* I posted the above) from a buddy and long-time reader who is in-country and in a position to know.


Just wanted to give you a heads up that PFC Ross McGinnis, 1-26 IN, was KIA on 04 DEC 2006 here in Baghdad. His parents will receive his Silver Star (hopefully interim) at the funeral. He is being submitted for the Medal of Honor. AIF got a grenade into his M1151 through the top hatch.

He yelled "Grenade" and shielded his comrades by throwing his body on the grenade. Everyone in that vehicle walked away; some were pretty hurt, but nonetheless, were alive.

I hope this award doesn't drag out for two-plus years.


Good. And ditto on that timliness thing.

As ever, Matt does it better. More story here.

Comments on Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis
MajMike briefed on December 12, 2006 04:13 PM

RIP young Soldier.

Well done, be thou at peace.

MM2 briefed on December 12, 2006 04:25 PM

God Bless You PFC McGinnis

Albany Rifles briefed on December 12, 2006 05:06 PM

I am proud to say my first unit was C/1-26 INF in 1981. It is a unit with a long and proud history; a history which has been burnished further by the outstanding and selfless heroic action of PFC McGinnis.

Let's hope that the Silver Star is in fact an interim award and that the Medal of Honor follows soon.

BTW, the Stryker Fighting Vehicle is named for one other 26th Infnatry soldier who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in WW II.


Temujin briefed on December 12, 2006 06:56 PM

He's got a much better reward, and not one you can touch with your hands. You cannot polish it, or shine it. It doesn't hang in his parents living room, and it will not rust with age or lose its luster with time.

It's an eternal reward and even though he didn't deserve to experience it so soon, I'm beyond grateful for his example, and for his sacrifice.

Private First Class, indeed.

Chuck Simmins briefed on December 12, 2006 07:38 PM

Blackfive's post seems to indicate that this is McGinnis's second award of the Silver Star. His unit did quite a job on November 5 in Baghdad.

AFSister briefed on December 12, 2006 10:35 PM

Where do we get these kids? What makes them sacrifice their lives for others like that? I read stories like this, and I wonder what I would do in the same situation... and then pray to God I hope I never find out.

Rest in peace,PFC McGinnis.

Heartless Libertarian briefed on December 12, 2006 10:49 PM

The approval folks do seem to be pretty damn slow with the MOHs, don't they? I haven't heard anything about SSG Bellavia from 2-2 IN (whose interim award for his actions in Fallujah II was a DSC) receiving the MOH. (I may be slightly off on the name.)

Who, exactly, composes the committee or whatever that gives final approval for MOHs? And is there any chance that they're deliberately being extremely slow for political reasons? Especially with (now former, actually) SSG Bellavia-he'd be the first living recipient since Vietnam. You'd think they'd want that one fast tracked.

olfi briefed on December 13, 2006 12:46 AM

[Deleted as being inapt to this thread - but made the subject of a post! So don't whine to me about censorship, please. I'm not the government, so the First Amendment doesn't apply in this venue, anyway. -the Armorer ]

ry briefed on December 13, 2006 01:50 AM

'poor gay who...'
Wow. That's pretty random. How do you know the guy was gay? Rather immaterial to the heroism of the guy.

It's just to bad we only find out about these guys, people we should know, posthumously. Guys like this should be the rolemodels for kids in school, gay or not, rather than Allen Iverson or 50 Cent.
There is no greater sacrifice than laying one's life down for the sake of another. McGinnis has done that in an exponential fashion(going to Iraq and protecting his fellows).
So, what have YOU done today, olfi, other than whine?

Sunshine briefed on December 13, 2006 08:47 PM

I am certain that the post referenced here is simply a 'typo' I think the write meant "another guy" It amazes me how less than 36 hours after his military memorial service in Baghdad, someone immediately turns to politics and mud slinging.

I am not a soldier, though I work side by side with them, on the base which this young man was honored just a day and a half ago. I see you have no integrity when it comes to disrespecting the loss of a fine soldier like this, by immediately politicizing his heroic actions. Give this soldier and his brothers and sisters the honor and respect they deserve... shut your mouth and simply honor their sacrifice and remember they have made the ultimate sacrifice for their beliefs, rather than simply griping and complaining.

Matt Maynard briefed on December 14, 2006 07:02 AM

I drew up a list of the Grenade Jumpers two years ago and posted it on my blog:
Remember and honor.

Flag Gazer briefed on December 14, 2006 02:25 PM

"An idiosyncratic blog called Castle Aargh talks about the heroic actions of PFC Ross McGinnis of Pennsylvania, who was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his efforts to save his comrades in Iraq. It mentions PFC Michael Blair of Klamath Falls."

Posted today on the internet edition of the Oregonian newspaper. Email me if you want the link.

Post a comment

Remember personal info?