Bush gives Medal of Honor to soldier killed in Iraq

June 2, 2008 7:15:31 PM PDT
President Bush on Monday presented the nation's highest military award to a 19-year-old soldier who died saving the lives of four comrades in Iraq by jumping on a grenade tossed into their military vehicle. The honored soldier, Army Pfc. Ross McGinnis, "gave all for his country," the president said somberly.

"No one outside this man's family can know the true weight of their loss. But in words spoken long ago, we are told how to measure the kind of devotion that Ross McGinnis showed on his last day: 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.'"

The president spoke in the East Room at a ceremony attended by Vice President Dick Cheney, prior recipients of the Medal of Honor, military leaders, McGinnis' parents, Tom and Romayne, and his two sisters, Becky and Katie. The four soldiers protected by McGinnis' actions were all in attendance.

McGinnis was in the gunner's hatch of a Humvee on Dec. 4, 2006, on a patrol in Iraq, when a grenade sailed past him and into the vehicle where the four other soldiers sat. He shouted a warning, then jumped on the grenade while it was lodged near the vehicle's radio.

"By that split-second decision, Private McGinnis lost his own life, and he saved his comrades," Bush said.

McGinnis grew up in the rural town of Knox, Pa., about 60 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

He enlisted in the Army after some struggles in school. Friends and family say they were watching him transform into a man.

Bush called him a regular guy, a dependable friend with a big heart and a carefree spirit. He also had a robust sense of humor, as was known as the only one in boot camp who could make his drill sergeant laugh, the president said.

As a military aide read the formal citation of McGinnis' honor, Bush gave the late soldier's mom a smile. When the audience rose and offered an ovation, Bush gave Mrs. McGinnis a kiss on the cheek and shook her husband's hand.

The president said it was a high privilege for him to present the Medal of Honor, recognizing valor beyond anything that duty could require.

"May the deep respect of our whole nation be a comfort to the family of this fallen soldier," Bush said. "May God always watch over the country he served, and keep us ever grateful for the life of Ross Andrew McGinnis."

Bush has awarded the Medal of Honor 12 times, including four times for service in the Iraq war. The three others who were awarded the honor for service in Iraq also received it posthumously: Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor and Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham.


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