19-year-old who died protecting others will be awarded Medal of Honor

By LEO SHANE III | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 24, 2008

WASHINGTON — A 19-year-old soldier who died shielding platoon members from a grenade blast will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor next month, Army officials said Friday.

Army Pfc. Ross McGinnis, of Knox, Pa., is the fourth man awarded the medal for actions in Iraq and the second soldier. Prior to his deployment, McGinnis served in the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, out of Schweinfurt, Germany.

McGinnis’ commanders recommended him for the nation’s highest military honor just days after his death, noting his quick thinking and heroism.

On Dec. 4, 2006, McGinnis was patrolling Baghdad’s Adhamiyah district as a Humvee gunner when an enemy fighter threw a grenade into the vehicle from a nearby rooftop.

According to Army reports, McGinnis shouted a warning to the four other soldiers in the Humvee, but quickly realized that none of them had time to escape the combat-locked vehicle. He pushed his gunner strap out and laid his back on top of the grenade, absorbing the blast.

McGinnis was killed instantly. The four other soldiers survived.

In an Army statement, Maj. Michael Baka, commander of C Company from June 2005 to March 2007, said McGinnis was regarded as a top soldier before the incident and a hero to his platoon afterwards.

"The driver and truck commander I am certain would have been killed if that blast had taken full effect," he said.

His platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Cedric Thomas, said McGinnis had time to jump out of the truck. "He chose not to."

In the weeks following his death Army officials posthumously promoted McGinnis to specialist and awarded him the Silver Star.

Just four days before his death, McGinnis was featured in a front-page photo in Stars and Stripes, a brush with fame that his fellow soldiers teased him about. After his death, unit members told the newspaper that he was proud of his service, carrying that photo with him as proof of his work.

Army officials confirmed his parents will attend a White House ceremony on June 2 to receive the medal, as well as events at the Pentagon and Arlington National ceremony to honor his bravery.

The White House ceremony is scheduled two weeks shy of what would have been McGinnis’ 21st birthday.

The other men to receive Medals of Honor for actions in the Iraq were: Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham.

Additionally, Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in a firefight with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

For more information and photos of McGinnis, visit http://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/mcginnis.

Stars and Stripes reporter Mark St.Clair contributed to this story.

Pfc. Ross McGinnis from 1st Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, mans his weapons in the turret of a Humvee in the Adhamiyah neighborhood of Baghdad in November, 2006. A few days later, McGinnis died while protecting his fellow soldiers from a grenade.

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