By Carrie McLeroyJune 3, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 4, 2008) -- Spc. Ross A. McGinnis, the second Soldier to earn the Medal of Honor in Iraq, was inducted into the Hall of Heroes during a Pentagon ceremony Tuesday.
His family, friends and fellow Soldiers were on hand to witness the event. His parents, Tom and Romayne McGinnis, received a plaque and Medal of Honor flag to honor their son's sacrifice.
McGinnis was a 19-year-old, M-2 50-caliber machine gunner with 1st Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, supporting operations in Adamiyah, an area of northeast Baghdad, when he saved the lives of four fellow Soldiers.
On Dec. 4, 2006, his platoon was conducting combat patrol operations in an effort to reduce and control sectarian violence in the area. While manning the machine gun in the final up-armored Humvee of the six-vehicle patrol, an insurgent positioned on a nearby rooftop threw a fragmentation grenade into the Humvee.
McGinnis yelled, "Grenade," and prepared to exit the vehicle as he was trained. When his platoon sergeant asked, "Where'" McGinnis realized that none of the four other Soldiers in the vehicle were aware of the grenade's location. He knew the other Soldiers were combat locked inside the vehicle and would not have time to exit safely, so McGinnis laid his back on the grenade, which had landed on the radio mount in the center of the vehicle.
"Knowing full well the grenade would kill him, Ross gave his life so his brothers could live. There's no greater act of personal courage, loyalty or selfless service," said Gen. Richard Cody, vice chief of staff of the Army. "As a result of his quick reflexes and heroic measures, Sgt. 1st Class Cedric Thomas, Staff Sgt. Ian Newland, Sgt. Lyle Buehler and Spc. Sean Lawson survived certain death inside that vehicle."
Although he was known as a the platoon funny man to his buddies and, "crazy little brother," to his two older sisters, McGinnis was also a serious Soldier, who his friends said could always be counted on.
"In a transcendent instant, Ross performed an extraordinary act.," said Secretary of the Army Pete Geren. "The crazy little brother who loved to make people laugh made a selfless decision. He decided that the lives of his friends were more important than his own."
"Words cannot express the debt all of us owe, not just those four, but all of us in this land of the free. And our debt to Ross, and to the memory of Ross and to his family, is for all of us to live lives worthy of his sacrifice," Geren added.
McGinnis's father Tom looked into the audience at the four men his son saved as he said, "It was said that Ross gave these four men a gift, and that's what it was. They can't be expected to live the rest of their lives living up to something, or paying back something.
"It can't be carried as a debt. A debt is something you can repay. A gift is something for you to enjoy. So live your lives, enjoy your lives, because it was a gift. Ross is the reason that we're here, and the reason that Ross is not here is because his Army buddies were more important than life itself," he added.
After thanking McGinnis's family for their sacrifice, Gordon England, deputy secretary of Defense, added, "While this is a bittersweet occasion, we can all find comfort and recognize the astonishing gift given to us by Ross. Ross McGinnis' name, his actions, are now forever immortalized in the nation's consciousness. He is part of our national fabric, a reflection of American values."