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"Blue Spader" Down - Godspeed Ross McGinnis

Posted By Blackfive • [December 15, 2006]

Update: Don't forget to honor his parent's request to send a note or gift to the men of Charlie Company.  Also, the memorial is scheduled for Sunday.  The citation for the Silver Star (and hopefully, the MOH) will be posted at the end of this post (after the Jump).  The response from you all has been tremendous - Blackfive.net readers are the best in the sphere!

US Army PFC Ross McGinnis

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has this on McGinnis:

...[McGinnis' mother] said her son drew a soldier in kindergarten when he was supposed to picture what he wanted to be when he grew up.

"Ross decided at a very young age that he wanted to join the Army," she said.

On his 17th birthday -- the first day he was eligible -- Ross McGinnis stepped into the recruiting station and joined the Army through the Delayed Enlistment Program, she said.
...Ross McGinnis was bright but restless and wasn't a stellar student.

"He wasn't academic," his mother said. "He was hands on."

Tom McGinnis said his son's passions - other than the Army - were video games and mountain biking. He later became a car enthusiast while taking automotive technology at the Clarion County Career Center.

"He was always outside, going. He couldn't sit still," Tom McGinnis said.

Ross McGinnis graduated from Keystone Junior-Senior High School in 2005...

Ross was 6 feet tall, 136 pounds, and a lefty, and he was a good shot with either hand:

...During his infantry training, the left-handed McGinnis qualified as an expert shooting left-handed and as a sharpshooter -- one step below expert -- shooting right-handed, she said...

McGinnis arrived in Iraq in early August and his unit was sent to Eastern Baghdad to help quell the brewing sectarian war.  His unit, from Schweinfurt, Germany, was Charlie Company (the ROCK!), 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, and they had seen some tough fighting lately. 

Mostly, due to the sentencing of Saddam, no one really seemed to notice that Charlie had taken out 50 insurgents during a violent period following the verdict.  McGinnis, as a machine gunner, had been awarded nominated for a Silver Star for his actions in that fight.  He was granted a waiver for time in service to be promoted to Specialist, too.

CENTCOM sent an email that describes McGinnis on patrol, on December 4th, standing in the turret. McGinnis was manning his armored humvee's machine gun.  His Platoon Sergeant, SFC Thomas, was the vehicle commander.

From a position above the humvee, an insurgent lobbed a grenade that arced through McGinnis' hatch and fell to the humvee console lodging in the radio at McGinnis' feet.

McGinnis shouted, "GRENADE!  IT'S IN THE TRUCK!"

Nineteen year old Private First Class Ross McGinnis had a choice to make - get the hell out of the truck through the hatch or...

SFC Cedric Thomas:

"I looked out of the corner of my eye as I was crouching down and I saw him pin it down."

McGinnis did so even though he could have escaped.   
"He had time to jump out of the truck," Thomas said. "He chose not to."

Thomas remembered McGinnis talking about how he would respond in such a situation. McGinnis said then he didn't know how he would act, but when the time came, he delivered.

"He gave his life to save his crew and his platoon sergeant," Thomas said. "He's a hero. He's a professional. He was just an awesome guy."

Three of the Soldiers with McGinnis who were wounded that day have returned to duty, while a fourth is recovering in Germany.

For saving the lives of his friends and giving up his own in the process, McGinnis earned the Silver Star, posthumously. His unit paid their final respects in a somber ceremony here Dec. 11...

Ross leaves behind his brothers in Charlie Company, his parents Thomas and Romayne McGinnis, his sisters Rebecca and Katie, and his friend in Germany, Christina Wendel.

His chain of command is considering nominating him for the Medal of Honor.

Ross will be buried in Arlington.  His parents have an interesting way for you to honor Ross's memory:

A military memorial service is being planned at 2 p.m. Sunday at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Knox (PA) with full military honors.

His remains will then be transferred to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

His family has suggested for anybody who wishes to make a memorial donation to send something to a service member overseas, a veteran or local service member and present it as a gift from PFC Ross McGinnis.

Gifts to his unit may be sent to:

SFC Cedric Thomas
1st Platoon, C/1-26 IN
Task Force Blue Spader
APO AE 09390-1537

Yesterday, SSG Wayne Marlow interviewed McGinnis's friends in Iraq.  What they have to say is after the Jump...

Pfc. Brennan Beck, a 1-26 infantryman from Lodi, Calif., said McGinnis made others feel better.

“He would go into a room and when he left, everyone was laughing,” Beck said. “He did impersonations of others in the company. He was quick-witted, just hilarious. He loved making people laugh. He was a comedian through and through.”

While having a witty side, McGinnis took his job seriously.

“He was not a garrison Soldier. He hated it back in garrison,” Beck said. “He loved it here in Iraq. He loved being a gunner. It was a thrill, he loved everything about it. He was one our best Soldiers. He did a great job.”

Beck has memories of talking all night with McGinnis about where they wanted their lives to go, and said McGinnis always remembered his friends.

“When I had my appendix removed, he was the only one who visited me in the hospital,” Beck said. “That meant a lot.”

Another 1-26 infantryman, Pfc.Michael Blair of Klamath Falls, Ore., recalled that McGinnis helped him when he arrived at Ledward Barracks in Schweinfurt, Germany.

“When I first came to the unit…he was there and took me in and showed me around,” Blair said. “He was real easy to talk to. You could tell him anything. He was a funny guy. He was always making somebody laugh.”

McGinnis’ final heroic act came as no surprise to Blair.

“He was that kind of person,” Blair said. “He would rather take it himself than have his buddies go down.”

Thank you and Godspeed, Ross McGinnis.

Update:  The Donovan has more.

Update: Ross's Silver Star citation below:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gunner in 1st Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, in connection with combat operations against an armed enemy in Adhamiyah (Northeast Baghdad), Iraq on the afternoon of 4 December 2006. PFC Ross McGinnis' platoon was conducting a combat patrol to deny the enemy freedom of movement in Adhamiyah and reduce the high-level of sectarian violence in the form of kidnappings, weapons smuggling, and murders. 1st Platoon's combat patrol moved deliberately along a major route north towards the Abu Hanifa mosque, passing an IED hole from a recent detonation on a Military Police patrol that very morning. The combat patrol made a left turn onto a side street southwest of the Abu Hanifa Mosque. There were two-story buildings and parked vehicles on either side of the road. PFC McGinnis was manning the M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gun on the Platoon Sergeant's M1151 Up-armored HMMWV. His primary responsibility was to protect the rear of the combat patrol from enemy attacks. Moments after PFC McGinnis' vehicle made the turn traveling southwest a fragmentation grenade was thrown at his HMMWV by an unidentified insurgent from an adjacent rooftop. He immediately yelled "grenade" on the vehicle's intercom system to alert the four other members of his crew. PFC McGinnis made an attempt to personally deflect the grenade, but was unable to prevent it from falling through the gunner's hatch. His Platoon Sergeant, the truck commander, was unaware that the grenade physically entered the vehicle and shouted "where?" to PFC McGinnis. When an average man would have leapt out of the gunner's cupola to safety, PFC McGinnis decided to stay with his crew. Unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own life he announced "the grenade is in the truck" and threw his back over the grenade to pin it between his body and the truck's radio mount. When the grenade detonated, PFC McGinnis absorbed all lethal fragments and the concussion with his own body killing him instantly. His early warning allowed all four members of his crew to position their bodies in a protective posture to prepare for the grenade's blast. As a result of his quick reflexes and heroic measures, no other members of the vehicle crew were seriously wounded in the attack. His gallant action and total disregard for his personal well-being directly saved four men from certain serious injury or death. PFC McGinnis' extraordinary heroism and selflessness at the cost of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in the keeping of the highest traditions of military service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.



Update 12-18-06:  My Pundit Review Radio segment last night was about Ross.

Update 12-19-06:  Steve M sends the link to the video footage of the memorial ceremony in Knox, PA on Sunday, December 17th.

Update 01-02-07:  Spoke to someone in the know.  Ross McGinnis was put in for a Silver Star as initial/interim award.  He was also put in for a Bronze Star (w/V) for the actions on November 5th.  There was not a submission for a Silver Star for November 5th.  I hope to get more information about the battle on November 5th.

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