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Ross Andrew McGinnis (14 June 1987 – 4 December 2006) was a United States Army soldier who was killed in the Iraq War and was posthumously awarded the United States' highest decoration for bravery, the Medal of Honor. While serving as the gunner in a HMMWV, his convoy was attacked and a hand grenade was thrown into his vehicle. McGinnis was subsequently killed in action when he deliberately threw himself on the grenade, saving the lives of at least four other soldiers in the vehicle. He was the fourth service member to receive the Medal of Honor during the Iraq War, which was presented to his family following his death.

Ross Andrew McGinnis
PFC Ross McGinnis OSUT Infantry School Photo.jpg
McGinnis at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Born(1987-06-14)14 June 1987
Meadville, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died4 December 2006(2006-12-04) (aged 19)
Adhamiyah, Iraq
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service2004–2006
RankArmy-USA-OR-04b-2015.svg Specialist
UnitCompany C, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd "Dagger" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division
Battles/warsIraq War 
AwardsMedal of Honor ribbon.svg Medal of Honor
Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star
Purple Heart ribbon.svg Purple Heart

Early life and educationEdit

McGinnis was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania on 14 June 1987 to Romayne and Tom McGinnis and grew up in Knox, 90 miles north of Pittsburgh, after his family moved there when he was three. When he was in kindergarten, his teacher gave him a paper that at the top said "When I grow up, I want to be __________" and he wrote "an Army Man". When he was growing up he became involved in the Boy Scouts of America, enjoyed working on cars, and was an athlete playing multiple sports.[1] He played basketball and soccer through the YMCA, and Little League baseball.[1] He attended Clarion County public schools and graduated from Keystone Junior/Senior High School in 2005.[2] He had two sisters, Becky and Katie.[3]


McGinnis had wanted to be a soldier since kindergarten and joined the Army through the Delayed Entry Program on his 17th birthday, on 14 June 2004. Following basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, in Ledward Barracks, Schweinfurt, Germany.[4]

In August 2006, aged 19, the regiment was deployed to eastern Baghdad and he was serving as a .50 caliber machine-gunner in a HMMWV during operations against insurgents in Adhamiyah. On 4 December, while his platoon was on mounted patrol in Adhamiyah, a grenade was thrown into his vehicle. He shouted a warning to the other four men in the vehicle, so they could prepare for the blast. When one of the men responded they could not see where the device had landed, instead of jumping out of the gunner's hatch, McGinnis threw his back over the grenade, absorbing the bulk of the blast. He was killed instantly, but the other occupants suffered only minor injuries.[5]

A single yellow rose adorned with the 1st Infantry Division patch lies at the base of Spc. Ross McGinnis' headstone in Arlington National Cemetery.

He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and his grave can be found in section 60, site 8544.[6] Since the beginning of the Iraq War, he is one of five known United States servicemembers who have thrown themselves on a live grenade. The other personnel known to have done this are Marine Corporal Jason Dunham, Navy SEAL Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor, Marine Corporal Kyle Carpenter, and Marine Sergeant Rafael Peralta.[7] McGinnis was the fourth recipient of the Medal of Honor in the course of the Iraq War.[8]

A ceremony was held in the east room of the White House on 2 June 2008 in which the medal was presented to his family by President George W. Bush.[9][10] In addition to his family and the President, many other notable people attended the ceremony, including the Vice President, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake, Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne, General Jim "Hoss" Cartwright, and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Several members of Congress also attended as did members of McGinnis' unit from Iraq, including the other soldiers from the vehicle he sacrificed his life to save.[3]

Awards and decorationsEdit

In addition to the Medal of Honor he also received a posthumous promotion to specialist as well as the Silver Star, Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

Left breast
Combat Infantryman Badge
Medal of Honor Bronze Star Medal Purple Heart Medal
Army Good Conduct Medal National Defense Service Medal Iraq Campaign Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Army Service Ribbon Army Overseas Service Ribbon

Medal of Honor citationEdit

President George Bush presents the Medal of Honor to the parents of Ross McGinnis

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an M2 .50-caliber Machine Gunner, 1st Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, in connection with combat operations against an armed enemy in Adhamiyah, Northeast Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2006.

That afternoon his platoon was conducting combat control operations in an effort to reduce and control sectarian violence in the area. While Private McGinnis was manning the M2 .50-caliber Machine Gun, a fragmentation grenade thrown by an insurgent fell through the gunner's hatch into the vehicle. Reacting quickly, he yelled "grenade," allowing all four members of his crew to prepare for the grenade's blast. Then, rather than leaping from the gunner's hatch to safety, Private McGinnis made the courageous decision to protect his crew. In a selfless act of bravery, in which he was mortally wounded, Private McGinnis covered the live grenade, pinning it between his body and the vehicle and absorbing most of the explosion.

Private McGinnis' gallant action directly saved four men from certain serious injury or death. Private First Class McGinnis' extraordinary heroism and selflessness at the cost of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.[3]

Other honorsEdit

A PBS Special Report chronicled the life of McGinnis as told by his parents, friends and the people of his hometown of Knox, Clarion County, Pennsylvania.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Ross Andrew McGinnis". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Fallen Hero: The Ross McGinnis Story". Video honoring Ross and his sacrifice and bravery. WQED TV. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Bush, George W. (2 June 2008). "President Bush Presents Medal of Honor to Private First Class Ross Andrew McGinnis". East Room: Office of the Press Secretary, The White House.
  4. ^ "Medal of Honor - SPC Ross A. McGinnis - Profile". United States Army. Retrieved 12 June 2008.
  5. ^ "Medal of Honor - SPC Ross A. McGinnis - Battlescape". United States Army. Retrieved 12 June 2008.
  6. ^ "Ross A. McGinnis". Claim to Fame: Medal of Honor recipients. Find a Grave. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  7. ^ Zoroya, Gregg (27 September 2007). "In Iraq, coping after a hero dies saving you". USA Today. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
  8. ^ Shane, Leo III (24 May 2008). "19-year-old who died protecting others will be awarded Medal of Honor". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 12 June 2008.
  9. ^ Tan, Michelle (26 March 2007). "Medal of Honor nominee McGinnis laid to rest". Army Times. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
  10. ^ "Soldier killed in Iraq to get Medal of Honor". MSNBC. Associated Press. 23 May 2008. Retrieved 23 May 2008.

External linksEdit