The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to
Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis
United States Army
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an M2 .50-caliber Machine Gunner, 1st Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, in connection with combat operations against an armed enemy in Adhamiyah, Northeast Baghdad, Iraq, on 4 December 2006.
That afternoon his platoon was conducting combat control operations in an effort to reduce and control sectarian violence in the area. While Private McGinnis was manning the M2 .50-caliber Machine Gun, a fragmentation grenade thrown by an insurgent fell through the gunner’s hatch into the vehicle. Reacting quickly, he yelled “grenade,” allowing all four members of his crew to prepare for the grenade’s blast. Then, rather than leaping from the gunner’s hatch to safety, Private McGinnis made the courageous decision to protect his crew. In a selfless act of bravery, in which he was mortally wounded, Private McGinnis covered the live grenade, pinning it between his body and the vehicle and absorbing most of the explosion.
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.
The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest medal for valor in combat that can be awarded to members of the armed forces. It sometimes is referred to as the “Congressional Medal of Honor” because the president awards it on behalf of the Congress.
The medal was first authorized in 1861 for Sailors and Marines, and the following year for Soldiers as well. Since then, more than 3,400 Medals of Honor have been awarded to members of all DOD services and the Coast Guard, as well as to a few civilians who distinguished themselves with valor.
Medals of Honor are awarded sparingly and are bestowed only to the bravest of the brave; and that courage must be well documented. So few Medals of Honor are awarded, in fact, that there have only been five bestowed posthumously for service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The most recent recipients are Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, Navy SEAL Master-at-Arms Michael A. Monsoor for valor in Iraq, and Army Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis, and Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy for valor in Afghanistan.
However, since 1998, 15 other Medals of Honor have been awarded to correct past administrative errors, oversights and follow-up on lost recommendations or as a result of new evidence.
Here are just a few examples of Soldiers who were awarded the Medal of Honor from three wars. Their actions, like the other recipients of the medal, were far and above the call of duty.
During the Civil War, the job of color bearer was one of the most hazardous as well as important duties in the Army. Soldiers looked to the flag for direction and inspiration in battle and the bearer was usually out in front, drawing heavy enemy fire while holding the flag high. On Nov. 16, 1863, regimental color bearer Pvt. Joseph E. Brandle, from the 17th Michigan Infantry, participated in a battle near Lenoire, Tenn. “…[H]aving been twice wounded and the sight of one eye destroyed, [he] still held to the colors until ordered to the rear by his regimental commander.”
Cpl. Alvin C. York, from the 82nd Division, fearlessly engaged the numerically superior German force at Chatel-Chehery, France, on Oct. 8, 1918–just a month before the armistice was signed. His citation reads: “…After his platoon had suffered heavy casualties and three other noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Cpl. York assumed command. Fearlessly leading seven men, he charged with great daring toward a machine gun nest, which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machine gun nest was taken, together with four officers and 128 men and several guns.”
Valor is found across the times as well as across the ranks, as World War II 2nd Lt. Robert Craig, from the 3rd Infantry Division, demonstrated. According to his citation, 2nd Lt. Robert Craig volunteered to defeat an enemy machine gun that three other officers before him could not. He quickly located the gun outside of Favoratta, Sicily, but without cover, he and his men found themselves vulnerable to approximately100 enemies. “Electing to sacrifice himself so that his platoon might carry on the battle, he ordered his men to withdraw … while he drew the enemy fire to himself. With no hope of survival, he charged toward the enemy until he was within 25 yards of them. Assuming a kneeling position, he killed five and wounded three enemy soldiers. While the hostile force concentrated fire on him, his platoon reached the cover of the crest. 2nd Lt. Craig was killed by enemy fire, but his intrepid action so inspired his men that they drove the enemy from the area, inflicting heavy casualties on the hostile force.”