and Stripes 12/14/06:
Soldier who died smothering enemy grenade to be recommended for Medal of Honor
By Mark St.Clair, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Thursday, December 14, 2006
A Schweinfurt, Germany-based infantryman who jumped on a grenade to save other troops is being recommended for the Medal of Honor.
The 1st Infantry Division soldier, Spc. Ross Andrew McGinnis, 19, was killed Dec. 4 while on a combat patrol in Baghdad.
Soldiers in his unit said he used his body to cover a grenade that had been thrown into his Humvee by an enemy fighter on a nearby rooftop.
McGinnis’ actions probably saved the lives of the four other soldiers in the vehicle, his company commander and other officials said during a Tuesday memorial ceremony.
As the U.S.’s highest award for wartime valor, the Medal of Honor is approved sparingly, and only one has been given out since Sept. 11, 2001, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
That award, to Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, was presented to Smith’s widow and two children by President Bush on April 4, 2005 — two years to the day after Smith’s death.
Smith was honored posthumously for his actions during the battle for the Baghdad airport in 2003, when he killed as many as 50 enemy fighters while helping wounded comrades to safety.
On Nov. 10, while speaking at the opening of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia, Bush announced that a second Medal of Honor would be awarded to Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, who also used his body to smother a grenade and protect two of his fellow Marines.
Bush’s announcement came on what would have been Dunham’s 25th birthday, more than 2˝ years after his death on April 14, 2004.
A date for the presentation ceremony has not yet been given.
According to the Army’s official Web site, “because of the need for accuracy the (Medal of Honor) recommendation process can take in excess of 18 months with intense scrutiny every step of the way.”
In McGinnis’ case, the recommendation has started with his company commander in 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, Capt. Michael Baka.
If approved, it would end with Congress.
Because of this, the award is often erroneously referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor.
A Silver Star already has been awarded to McGinnis for his bravery, and even if he is eventually awarded the Medal of Honor, the Silver Star will stay on his record.
“In essence, he could receive two awards,” said Maj. Sean Ryan, public affairs officer for 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which McGinnis’ unit currently falls under while deployed.
Ryan also said that if the Medal of Honor is not approved, it could be downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross.
Fallen hero's actions leave powerful message
By HEATHER LESKANIC
Ross McGinnis sacrificed his life in an effort to save his fellow infantrymen.
CLARION - I'd never heard of Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis, the hometown hero from Knox, Clarion County, a month ago. Now he occupies my mind.
I'm still astounded and in awe of his actions on Dec. 4 in Baghdad and his decision to enter the armed forces.
He purposely sacrificed his life in an effort to save his four fellow infantrymen after a grenade was thrown inside their vehicle. Ross shouted a warning and threw himself on top of the grenade, shielding the others, according to military accounts.
My heart goes out to his family and how they are coping with their immeasurable loss at this time of the year. I imagine their wishes to just see him walk through the door on Christmas Day, grinning from ear to ear.
I hope that others who have heard his story are allowing themselves the time to really consider the enormity of what he did.
To shed shameless tears and honor his gracious spirit.
This is a time to be joyful and grateful for all of our blessings.
But it's also a time to grieve the loss of one very special 19-year-old man. Ross will never die if we keep him in our hearts.
His family should take comfort in knowing that although they lost their dear son, he showed us what true compassion looks like and brought us to our knees.
It connects us all.
Ross dared us to care.
He dares us to stand for something and to give one another the benefit of the doubt.
Clarion County commissioners have proclaimed Dec. 4 to be designated as a remembrance and reverence day for Ross.
During last Sunday's poignant memorial service at St. Paul's Lutheran Church near Wentlings Corners, the Rev. Debbie Jacobson said the greatest love is that shown when someone has laid down his life for another.
This is a true Christmas story that provides so many great lessons.
There are four soldiers who are alive today because of what Ross chose to do.
I hope they are coming to grips with the realization of that beautiful gift and are aware that one of the kindest ways to thank him is to live their lives fully and passionately.
His story also makes me think of the other young men and women in our area.
So many loving souls just trying to make their way in a society that has become incredibly complicated - a mixed bag filled with more needless cruelty than random kindness. They can make a difference.
I'm not a parent, so I can't even begin to understand the difficulties of raising a child.
I do see it as a responsibility that we all share to some degree.
We are all setting an example for youth - every day, in every way.
They pay attention to and know much more than they let on.
An encouraging word means everything to a child.
Truth is, that doesn't change when they've grown into an adolescent who is developing his autonomy or an adult still trying to figure everything out.
They will have to find their own unique path and will likely need to be granted second chances - sometimes third, fourth and fifth chances.
Whatever it takes.
Because each of them can accomplish great things if they want to.
Ross understood you don't have to be defined by the mainstream culture.
And you don't have to run scared.
His classmates - those who graduated with him from Keystone High School in 2005 - were both shaken by death and stunned by his giving nature.
Ross epitomized a belief in personal strength and a devotion to the greater good.
This soldier proved himself.
He was a hero because he was not afraid to ask more of himself.
We can't reach out and touch him now, but we can keep him in our prayers of peace with the understanding that he knows how we feel, our profound appreciation.
Thank you, Ross McGinnis, for reminding me that true religion and humanity go hand in hand.
And that they do still exist in this modern age.