Soldier who died smothering enemy grenade to be recommended for Medal of Honor
By MARK ST.CLAIR | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 14, 2006
A Schweinfurt, Germany-based infantryman who jumped on a grenade to save other troops is being recommended for the Medal of Honor.
The 1st Infantry Division soldier, Spc. Ross Andrew McGinnis, 19, was killed Dec. 4 while on a combat patrol in Baghdad.
Soldiers in his unit said he used his body to cover a grenade that had been thrown into his Humvee by an enemy fighter on a nearby rooftop.
McGinnis’ actions probably saved the lives of the four other soldiers in the vehicle, his company commander and other officials said during a Tuesday memorial ceremony.
As the U.S.’s highest award for wartime valor, the Medal of Honor is approved sparingly, and only one has been given out since Sept. 11, 2001, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
That award, to Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, was presented to Smith’s widow and two children by President Bush on April 4, 2005 — two years to the day after Smith’s death.
Smith was honored posthumously for his actions during the battle for the Baghdad airport in 2003, when he killed as many as 50 enemy fighters while helping wounded comrades to safety.
On Nov. 10, while speaking at the opening of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia, Bush announced that a second Medal of Honor would be awarded to Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, who also used his body to smother a grenade and protect two of his fellow Marines.
Bush’s announcement came on what would have been Dunham’s 25th birthday, more than 2½ years after his death on April 14, 2004.
A date for the presentation ceremony has not yet been given.
According to the Army’s official Web site, “because of the need for accuracy the (Medal of Honor) recommendation process can take in excess of 18 months with intense scrutiny every step of the way.”
In McGinnis’ case, the recommendation has started with his company commander in 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, Capt. Michael Baka.
If approved, it would end with Congress.
Because of this, the award is often erroneously referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor.
A Silver Star already has been awarded to McGinnis for his bravery, and even if he is eventually awarded the Medal of Honor, the Silver Star will stay on his record.
“In essence, he could receive two awards,” said Maj. Sean Ryan, public affairs officer for 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which McGinnis’ unit currently falls under while deployed.
Ryan also said that if the Medal of Honor is not approved, it could be downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross.