- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2008

SHIPPENVILLE, Pa. - Growing up in a small rural town, Ross McGinnis was more apt to get in trouble than on the honor roll. So he enlisted in the Army, and in just under a year found his soul mate, a brotherhood, and even himself.

“I just cannot wait for the day when I can connect all three lives into one,” Pfc. McGinnis wrote on his MySpace page. “But that day will not be for a long time.”

The 19-year-old private first class never got that chance.

He was in the gunner’s hatch of a Humvee on Dec. 4, 2006, when a grenade sailed past him and into the vehicle, where four other soldiers sat. He shouted a warning, then jumped back-first onto the grenade, which blew up and killed him.

Today, he will be posthumously presented the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor.

“Ross was a hero; I mean, he was honestly the type of soldier that was trustworthy, that was reliable, that was dependable before combat. He loved doing what he was doing,” said Ian Newland, one of the soldiers Pfc. McGinnis saved.

Pfc. McGinnis grew up in the small town of Knox, about 60 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, where he lived with his parents, Tom and Romayne, and older sisters Becky and Katie.

Mr. McGinnis believes his son’s story must be told truthfully, rough patches and all.

“He wasn’t the hero in the sense that a lot of people think of heroes,” his father said. “He made some bad decisions, but he still turned out to be a good person. … And that’s really the message that I’m trying to get across by pointing out his faults. Not that I’m trying to disparage him in some way.”

So he tells of his son’s arrest for being caught with marijuana in school, at age 14, and of getting expelled for the rest of eighth grade. He finished at an alternative school that he liked so much he didn’t want to return to regular school.

“He didn’t pick up things at school like he should, for whatever reason. And his grades always suffered,” his father said.

Eventually, Ross McGinnis decided the Army could provide him training as an automotive technician. He enlisted on his 17th birthday, June 14, 2004.

Pfc. McGinnis only came home twice on leave before he was killed, the last time for a couple of weeks in the spring of 2006. His family noticed how he had matured since enlisting.

“He was more reserved and more confident and seemed to stand a lot taller, although he didn’t grow any while he was in the Army,” his father said. “He was a man. Unfortunately, we never really got to know him as a man. He was a child when he left; he got to visit with us a couple times; then he was gone.”

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