When most young men are turning seventeen, they are thinking about their upcoming senior year of high school, their sports career, or their choice of college. When Ross McGinnis, of Knox, PA, turned seventeen, he marched down to the recruiter’s office and joined the Army via the delayed enlistment program.
When in kindergarten, said Rebecca McGinnis, her son “drew a soldier...when he was supposed to picture what he wanted to be when he grew up.” At the age of 18, the ambidextrous McGinnis was in training to be an infantryman, where he qualified as a sharpshooter with both left and right hands. Shortly thereafter, he was assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, based in Schweinfurt, Germany, where he was the youngest soldier in the unit.
In August of this year, he found himself in Iraq, patrolling the streets of Baghdad, and in November, immediately following the Saddam-trial verdict, he helped forcefully put down a premeditated violent uprising by insurgents.
McGinnis distinguished himself so greatly in his first three months in Iraq that a waiver was requested – and granted – to promote him to Specialist (E-4) despite lacking the requisite time in service.
On December 4, 2006, at the age of 19, Ross McGinnis traded his life for the lives of four members of his squad, when he jumped on a grenade and shielded them from the blast. He remains 19 years old forever..
On the last day of his life, PFC McGinnis was manning the .50-caliber machine gun mounted in a turret atop his Humvee, and serving as the rear guard in a mounted combat patrol against insurgents and sectarian fighters. As the convoy made a turn onto a narrow street, a fragmentation grenade was thrown from the rooftop of an adjacent building. According to the official report, "[McGinnis] immediately yelled "Grenade!" on the vehicle's intercom system to alert the four other members of his crew...[he] made an attempt to personally deflect the grenade, but was unable to prevent it from falling through the gunner's hatch."
For his subsequent actions, McGinnis was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the military's third-highest award for combat heroism (specifically, for "gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States").
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