Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Knox, Clarion County
Spc. Ross McGinnis was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for action in Iraq.
Awards: Congressional Medal of Honor
Born in Meadville, Pennsylvania, on June 14, 1987, Ross Andrew McGinnis had humble beginnings. His family moved to Knox, Pennsylvania, when he was only three-years-old. He held a part-time after school job at McDonald's and enlisted in the Army on his 17th birthday. Upon graduating high school, McGinnis began basic training with eventual hopes of becoming an auto mechanic. McGinnis died at the age of 19 in combat in Iraq. He received the Medal of Honor two years after his death.
Ross Andrew McGinnis, born June 14, 1987, in Meadville, Pennsylvania, spent his formative years growing up in Knox, Pennsylvania. He attended Keystone Junior-Senior High School, graduating in 2005. McGinnis' parents, Tom and Romayne, say their child had a boring life. As a child he was involved in Boy Scouts, soccer and basketball at the local YMCA, and his church, St. Paul's Lutheran Church. McGinnis held an afterschool job at McDonald's. One of McGinnis' loves included cars. He took courses at Clarion County Career Center to develop his skills in order to one day be an auto mechanic.
On his MySpace.com page, McGinnis said of himself, "I live three lives, in all three I am the same person, but my three separate lives are not connected in any way." Of his life in Knox, he said, "One of my lives is the one I had growing up; I had my friends in high school and around where I lived, and I had my family, my two older sisters and parents. I barely get to see this life anymore." He noted in his blog that he was anxious to return to Pennsylvania to see his family and friends. He was to go on leave in early April, and his friends noted their excitement to see him again.
Everyone who knew him described McGinnis as a happy, fun-living guy who brought a smile to the face of everyone around him. Squad leader Ian Newland said of him, "His personality and humor made him stand out. He was the comedian out of everybody. You could be having the worst day in the field, or the worst day in the rear "D," and Ross would come in a room and everybody would be laughing within three minutes." His teachers too, though not remembering him for scholastic achievement, remembered his charm and personality. His automotive instructor at the Clarion Career Center said that McGinnis was "the type of student that made me proud to be a teacher."
On his 17th birthday in 2004, Ross McGinnis enlisted for the Army through the Delayed Entry Program. Upon turning 18 and graduating high school, he would officially be enlisted in the Army and ready to ship off to basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia. From Georgia, McGinnis moved to Schweinfurt, Germany, with the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment. That is where McGinnis claimed his second life was, "I have another group of friends there, and this is where I spent most of my life the past year. In this life is where I met my true love, and my soul mate, Christina Wendel." From Germany, his regiment was shipped to Baghdad, Iraq. McGinnis served as an M2 .50-caliber machine gunner in 1st Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment. Their mission was to enter the extremely hostile environment of Adhamiyah, Iraq.
McGinnis called his time with the army his third life, "My third life is my army life - yet again another large group of friends, who are more like a bunch of brothers. The kind of brothers you can joke with and cry with. This is where I will be living my life for the next year. It's not going to be an easy life here in Iraq; I have already had a couple life altering experiences. But they will not change me mentally... I just cannot wait for the day when I can connect all three lives into one. But that day will not be for a long time." After only being deployed for a short four months, McGinnis made the ultimate sacrifice for his platoon.
On duty that fateful day, December 4, 2006, McGinnis' platoon was out patrolling the streets of Adhamiyah when an insurgent threw a grenade into the Humvee that McGinnis was gunning. After yelling "Grenade!" in warning to the other members of his team, McGinnis threw himself on top of the grenade in order to absorb the brunt of the explosion. The explosion killed him immediately. Because of his bravery and sacrifice for his team, McGinnis was posthumously promoted to Specialist. He was also awarded the Silver Star (the third highest military honor), the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart while awaiting confirmation of his receiving the Medal of Honor. McGinnis' other decorations included the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and Combat Infantryman Badge.
McGinnis was awarded the Medal of Honor on June 2, 2008, in the East Room of the White House. His mother, father, two sisters, brother-in-law, platoon members, other Medal of Honor winners, and other distinguished guests were in attendance. President Bush conducted the ceremony, with a military aide reading the official citation, which concluded, "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." McGinnis is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
Bowling, Brian. "Clarion GI rolls onto Grenade, Saving 4." The Pittsburgh Tribune (7 Dec. 2006).