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Ross A. McGinnis

U.S. Army / Medal of Honor

He ignored his own safety
to shield his comrades from
a hand grenade explosion

The Humvee wound through the warren of streets in the Adhamiyah section of Baghdad, and Spc. Ross McGinnis scanned the rooftops and alleyways from the turret. The threats were many, and as the gunner, he was the eyes and ears for the four soldiers sitting below.

Adhamiyah, wracked by sectarian violence, had become a particularly deadly neighborhood for U.S. troops. Insurgents buried massive bombs in the roads, fired at patrols from windows and popped out of alleyways with rocket-propelled grenades.

“It was a nasty fight,” says Sgt. 1st Class Cedric Thomas, 1st Platoon Sergeant of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment. The company already had lost two soldiers, two of 14 killed during the 15-month deployment. Dozens more were wounded.

On Dec. 4, 2006, the six-truck patrol rolled through the neighborhood to deliver a generator to residents. McGinnis rode in the last Humvee. From a rooftop, an insurgent pitched a grenade toward the truck. McGinnis tried to bat it away, but it hit the roof, fell inside and landed with a clang against the radio mount between the driver, Sgt. Lyle Buehler, and Thomas, the passenger.

“Grenade!” McGinnis yelled

“Where?” Thomas asked.

“It’s in the truck!”

Another grenade had been thrown into a Humvee several weeks earlier, but that one was a dud.

This one wasn’t.

Before Thomas put his head between his legs and braced for the explosion, he saw McGinnis sit down, trapping the grenade between his body and the radio mount.

“He could have jumped out,” Thomas says. “That’s what he was trained to do. Alert the crew and jump out.”

The doors blew open and the truck filled with black smoke. The grenade killed McGinnis instantly and wounded the four other soldiers.

“If Ross would have jumped out,” Thomas says, “there would be four of us not here today.”

When the platoon returned to the combat outpost that night, Thomas approached Capt. Michael Baka, the company commander.

“Sir,” he said, “McGinnis saved our lives today.”

Read about the other Medal of Honor recipients

Brian Mockenhaupt is a Detroit-based writer who is an Alicia Patterson fellow reporting on the physical and psychological effects of war. He served as a noncommissioned officer with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division from 2002 to 2005, spending 18 months in Iraq.

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Spc. Ross McGinnis saved the lives of four of his teammates when he used his body as a shield after an enemy grenade was thrown into his Humvee. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army)


Ross A. McGinnis

U.S. Army / Medal of Honor

Died Dec. 4, 2006

Spc. Ross A. McGinnis, 19, was born June 14, 1987, in Meadville, Pa., and grew up in Knox, Pa. He enlisted in the Army on his 17th birthday and deployed to Iraq in August 2006 with 1st Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. He was killed Dec. 4, 2006, while on patrol in the Adhamiyah section of Baghdad.

Shielded his comrades from a deadly explosion after a hand grenade was thrown into their Humvee, taking the brunt of the blast himself.

Iraq / Baghdad

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