ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, June 5, 2008) -- Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis received the highest military honor possible Moday, the Medal of Honor, and on Wednesday a new headstone marking his achievement was unveiled at Arlington National Cemetery.

While it threatened to rain, the sun broke through just before the ceremony. Members of the Pentagon Police and the Patriot Guard rode their motorcycles into the cemetery as a tribute to the fallen hero.

McGinnis' parents and siblings were present for the unveiling, which included a speech by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston.

"This stone that we will unveil will remind [people] that freedom is not free, and that great Soldiers like Ross have died in defense of that freedom," Preston said. "This stone will give Soldiers like me - and those who aspire to wear the uniform of a Soldier - an opportunity to reflect on Ross's actions a year and a half ago."

McGinnis was a machine gunner with the 1-26th Infantry, Ist Infantry Division, stationed in Iraq. On Dec. 4, 2006 his platoon was conducting operations to reduce sectarian violence in Adhamiyah.

While he was manning the machine gun, a fragmentation grenade was thrown into his vehicle. Standard procedure is for the machine gunner to warn of the danger, and then jump out.
McGinnis, however, saw the others wouldn't be able to evacuate the vehicle in time, so he released his strap, and placed himself over the grenade, directly saving four lives.

At his gravesite Wednesday, the Army Band (Pershing's Own) was present to play "Taps" and a solemn version of "Danny Boy" was played on the bagpipes as the stone was unveiled.

Also present was Secretary of the Army Pete Geren; Lt. Gen. David Huntoon, director of Army Staff; Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle, deputy chief of staff for G1, personnel; and Soldiers from McGinnis' platoon.

Those attending the ceremony said they could not fail to feel respect for the young man who gave his life so four of his fellow Soldiers could live, and Preston's concluding words left that feeling in their hearts.

"It is because of his dedication that Ross solidified the very core of our Soldier's Creed ... The second paragraph of the Soldier's Creed is known as the Warrior Ethos. Ross epitomized that ethos on that December day in Adhamiyah."

(Alex McVeigh writes for the Pentagram newspaper at Fort Myer, Va.)

For more information on Spc McGinnis, see President Awards Medal of Honor to Soldier Killed in Iraq or Medal of Honor Recipient Inducted into PentagonAca,!a,,cs Hall of Heroes.