SMA Kenneth Preston
PFC Ross McGinnis Headstone Unveiling
4 June 08

Good Morning, Secretary England, Secretary Geren, LTG Huntoon and Distinguished Guests. Let me begin by welcoming the McGinnis Family; Romayne, Tom, Beckey, Katy and Adam.

I would like to welcome all of the Soldiers who served with Ross in the 1st Infantry Division and especially his battle buddies from the 1st Platoon, all the Soldiers and leaders from Charlie Company and the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment- "Blue Spaders."

Welcome to all the Soldiers and friends of Ross and the McGinnis Family.

I am very honored today to host this piece of the recognition for PFC Ross McGinnis. This week, he was honored with the highest award our nation can bestow a hero, the Medal of Honor. He has now joined almost 3,500 recipients of that decoration for valor in our nation's history. Here in a few minutes we will unveil a headstone in his memory.

His mom and dad, Tom and Romayne, have said Ross was destined to serve his nation, to become a Soldier. He joined the Army right after his 17th birthday and shipped off to basic training right after his high school graduation.

Here we stand today in Arlington Cemetery. PFC McGinnis joins Pvt. William Henry Christman, from the 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, who was the first military service man interred in Arlington National Cemetery on 13 May 1864. PFC McGinnis joins Medal of Honor Recipient 1st Lt. Audie L. Murphy, the Army's and our Nation's most-decorated Soldier and General Omar N. Bradley, the 1st Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and 17th Chief of Staff of the Army.

Arlington cemetery is visited each year by more than five million people who come to pay tribute to the more than 300,000 heroes who have fought to keep America free. This stone that we will unveil will remind each of them that freedom is not free and that great Soldiers like Ross have died in the defense of that freedom.

This stone will give Soldiers like me and those who aspire to wear the uniform of a Soldier the opportunity to reflect on Ross's actions a year and a half ago. Actions that saved the lives of 4 of his fellow Soldiers. Because of his courage, men like SFC Thomas, SSG Newland, SGT Buehler and SPC Lawson can stand at this hallowed site today in his honor.

Yet it is because of his dedication that Ross solidified the very core of our Soldiers Creed. In the Army, we live by the Soldiers Creed - 119 words, 13 sentences - that define who we are as Soldiers and who we are as Leaders. The second paragraph of the Soldiers Creed is known as the Warrior Ethos. Ross epitomized the Warrior Ethos that December day in Adhamiyah. I cannot think of many professions that put such difficult choices in front of our young men and women on a daily basis.

Yet Ross's job is not yet done. He joins America's sons and daughters in this living tribute we call Arlington National Cemetery. For as long as our flag stands and these more than 600 hundred acres of sacred ground cradle our heroes, so will the memory of Ross's commitment.

Today, his fellow Soldiers stand as living testaments to his courage, sacrifice and dedication. On behalf of more than one million Soldiers serving our great Army, I want to thank you PFC Ross MCGinnis. You will always be with us as you quietly inspire all those who bare witness to this site. You will always be, an American Soldier and the Strength of the Nation.

Private First Class McGinnis, I am honored to salute you today.

Well done, Soldier. Rest in peace.