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Statement From Parents of SPC Ross A. McGinnis, December 23, 2006

Tuesday, January 2, 2007; 12:00 AM

Statement from parents of SPC Ross A. McGinnis, December 23, 2006

When the doorbell rang Monday evening December 4th, about 9:30, I wondered who would be visiting at this hour of the evening. But when I walked up to the door and saw two US Army officers standing on the patio at the bottom of the steps, I knew instantly what was happening. This is the only way the Army tells the next of kin that a soldier has died.

At that moment, I felt as if I had slipped off the edge of a cliff and there was nothing to grab onto; just a second beyond safety, falling into hell. If only my life could have ended just a moment before this so that I would not have to hear the words they were about to say. If only I could blink myself awake from this horrible dream. But it wasn't a dream.

As the officers made their way into our living room, I rushed back into our bedroom and told my wife Romayne to get up; we had company. And they were going to tell us that Ross is dead. I knew of no other way to say it.

We rushed back out to meet the officers, and then the appointed spokesperson recited the standard message that Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis had been killed in action in Baghdad, Iraq, that day. They could tell us nothing more except that Army regulations required that the family be notified within 4 hours of the event. They offered their sympathy and support, and the Chaplain prayed for our strength in the days to come, and then they left us alone in shock, grief and disbelief.

In the days that followed, we were informed of the details of his death. The entire world probably knows those details now, since there was so much excitement about his heroic deed. Hundreds of family, friends and acquaintances offered us their words of prayer and comfort. But only time will take the edge off the knives that have wedged into our hearts.

Ross did not become OUR hero by dying to save his fellow soldiers from a grenade. He was a hero to us long before he died, because he was willing to risk his life to protect the ideals of freedom and justice that America represents. He has been recommended for the Medal of Honor, and many think that he deserves to get it without the typical 2 years that Congress has required of late. We, his parents, are in no hurry to have our son bestowed with this medal. That is not why he gave his life. The lives of four men who were his Army brothers outweighed the value of his one life. It was just a matter of simple kindergarten arithmetic. Four means more than one.

It didn't matter to Ross that he could have escaped the situation without a scratch. Nobody would have questioned such a reflex reaction. What mattered to him were the four men placed in his care on a moment's notice. One moment he was responsible for defending the rear of the convoy from enemy fire; the next moment he held the lives of four of his friends in his hands.

The choice for Ross was simple, but simple does not mean easy. His straightforward answer to a simple but difficult choice should stand as a shining example for the rest of us. We all face simple choices, but how often do we choose to make a sacrifice to get the right answer? The right choice sometimes requires honor.

Our Bible tells us that God gave up his only son to die for us so that we may live. But Romayne and I are not gods. We can't see the future, and we didn't give our son to die, knowing that he will live again. We gave him to fight and win and come home to us and marry and grow old and have children and grandchildren. But die he did, and his mother, dad and sisters must face that fact and go on without him, believing that someday we will meet again. Heaven is beyond our imagination and so we must wait to see what it's like.

God bless everybody that has comforted us in our time of grief. But we must not forget the men and women who are still putting their lives on the line; we must keep them in our prayers and keep reminding them with gifts and letters that they are loved and that we want them to return safely to their families.


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