Lessons In Manliness: Private Ross A. McGinnis & Petty Officer Michael Monsoor

by Brett & Kate McKay on July 24, 2008 · 26 comments

in A Man's Life, Lessons In Manliness

There are few manlier virtues than sacrifice. The ability to unselfishly put aside one’s own needs and desires to fulfill and protect the needs and desires of others requires a level of maturity and self-control few men ever truly attain. Instead, many men today are children living in man-sized bodies. They view the world and others as tools to fulfill their appetites. Only after they themselves are satisfied, can they begin to think about others. “What’s in it for me?” has become the battle cry of a generation.

“Sacrifice” comes from a Middle English verb meaning “to make sacred.” Ancient religions and peoples offered sacrifices of human and animals in order to sanctify their life or their community. But such gestures were invariably empty; external gestures can never substitute for internal failings. Instead, a man who wishes to sanctify his life must become a living sacrifice.

Of course the problem with a living sacrifice is that it can crawl off the altar. When the flames threaten to consume you, will you be able to take the heat?

These two men came under fire, quite literally, and passed that test. While both soldiers, they have much to teach all men about sacrifice and selflessness.

Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis

“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. . . 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.”

-The parents of Private Ross A. McGinnis

On December 4, 2006, Private Ross A. McGinnis was manning the machine gun turret of a Humvee patrolling the streets of Adhamiyah, Iraq. From the rooftop of a nearby building, an insurgent hurled a grenade into the vehicle. The Army instructs soldiers in the situation McGinnis now faced to immediately seek escape. McGinnis ignored this training and instead thought of the lives of his four Army brothers stuck in the Humvee. He yelled “Grenade!” into his microphone to prepare them for the blow and then pinned the grenade between his body and the vehicle, entirely covering it with his back. In a matter of seconds, the grenade exploded; McGinnis’ body absorbed its full impact. Four men’s lives were spared because of this selfless and courageous act.

Interestingly, a similar situation had arisen a month earlier. A different convoy of men had faced the same scenario. A grenade was thrown into the Humvee, only this time the soldier manning the machine gun immediately leaped from the vehicle. The grenade turned out to be a dud. Upon hearing what happened, McGinnis admitted that he wasn’t sure what he would do if it happened to him. It was only in the moment when the grenade landed by his feet that the true substance of what Private McGinnis was made of would be revealed.

Master at Arms Second Class Michael Monsoor

“Mikey looked death in the face that day and said, “You cannot take my brothers. I will go in their stead.”

-One of the Navy Seals saved by Petty Officer Second Class Michael Monsoor

Even before that fateful in Iraq, Michael Monsoor had shown himself to be a true man. Monsoor was a sickly child whose serial bouts of asthma and fits of coughing often landed him in the hospital. But just as Theodore Roosevelt before him, Monsoor was determined not to let his weaknesses hold him back. He built up his lungs and body by frequently challenging his siblings to swimming races. Monsoor was more than successful in building up his physical prowess; as an adult he became part of the most elite fighting force on the planet: The Navy Seals

This kind of grit came in handy as Monsoor sought to fulfill his mission in Iraq as an automatic weapons gunner on a Seal sniper team. On September 29, 2006, Monsoor’s team was positioned on a residential rooftop in Ramadi, a hotbed for violence and a stronghold for the Iraqi insurgency. That morning, his Coalition battalion had fired upon and killed enemy fighters, revealing his unit’s position. Citizens blocked off the street and a mosque called upon the populace to besiege the Coalition force. Under attack, Monsoor and two fellow soldiers positioned themselves in a sniper hide-sight. As Monsoor diligently watched for enemy movement, an insurgent hurled a grenade onto the rooftop. The grenade bounced off Monsoor’s chest and fell to the floor. Positioned by the only exit, Monsoor alone could have attempted escape. Instead, he yelled, “Grenade!” and then seeing that his comrades would not have time to move away, dove unto the explosive, covering it with his body and absorbing its impact. His two Seal brothers were wounded but their lives spared.

Lessons for all men

Most men will never be faced with these kinds of life and death situations. But the selflessness and courage Private McGinnis and Petty Officer Monsoor displayed are values every man should seek to embody. Sacrifice is never easy whether on the battlefield or in our daily lives. When you are offered a promotion that will mean more money and prestige but zero time with your family, will you be able to turn it down? When your wife asks you to quit smoking because she wants to grow old with you, will you be able to quit? When a loved one needs a kidney transplant, will you be willing to give up yours? Will you be able to sacrifice your own desires to help someone else?

There will always be an escape, an avenue for retreat. What will you do when you are asked to step up? Will you cower in fear and flee? Or will you have the strength to do the right thing? A man can never know with absolute certainty how he will react in the moment of crisis, faced with such decisions. But you can decide each and every day, in your heart and your mind, what kind of man you want to be. You can decide that running away from challenges will never be an option. And you can strive each day to attain the values and training needed to become a selfless person. Then, when you are asked to sacrifice, you will not hesitate, making the honorable decision will be automatic.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brett July 24, 2008 at 8:32 pm

It’s really haunting to read McGinnis’ MySpace page, which is preserved as he left it before he died.

For more pics of both Monsoor and McGinnis see and here.

2 kingbinary July 24, 2008 at 8:43 pm

“Officer” isn’t the proper honorific for Michael Monsoor. If you wanted to address him by rank it would be “Seaman.” Additionally, Monsoor wasn’t an officer. He was an enlisted man. Even if he were an officer, he would be addressed by rank, not as “officer.” Officer isn’t used as a title in the military.

3 kingbinary July 24, 2008 at 8:44 pm

No, I’m wrong. The proer title would be “Petty Officer. It’s late.

4 Cameron Schaefer July 24, 2008 at 9:17 pm

Brett,

Thank you for honoring such incredible men! Their sacrifices are evidence of the high quality of individuals we have currently fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. America should be very proud of them!

5 Tim July 25, 2008 at 4:01 am

“Monsoor and two fellow soldiers . . .”

Petty Officer Monsoor was not a soldier. He was a sailor. “Soldier” refers to personnel of the army.

While I know it’s common for people who have never served in the military to refer to all the military as “soldiers,” it’s always been a pet peeve of mine. If I had wanted to be a soldier, I would have joined the army.

6 Darren July 25, 2008 at 5:36 am

BRAVO ZULU!

7 Mike Bates July 25, 2008 at 8:04 am

These are truly remarkable men. Regardless of how you feel about the war, you have to admire men like these, who risk (and sometimes lose) their lives in the service of our country. We lose too many good men this way. God bless them both. Thanks for the great article, Brett.

8 Richard Williams July 25, 2008 at 9:31 am

Inspiring, simply inspiring. Great post!

9 Martin July 25, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Thats a great article, this should have been a headline on every news outlet in the country and every person in America should know it for that reason. We only get to hear about the negative aspects of the war and not the truly amazing acts exhibited there. Thank you AOM.

10 JFrame July 25, 2008 at 5:13 pm

So if I don’t let myself get killed for my buddies I’m not a “real” man? What about my kids? What about those who depend on me to survive for them? Also, I’m a little peeved that you took offense to the one gunner bailing when the grenade landed. He followed his training and lived to fight another day. He’s over there risking his butt for us and you have the nerve to down talk him because he dodged a grenade?? Did that gunner have a family? Maybe a little kid that wanted to see his daddy come home? The lesson here is that you’re full of BS and have no idea what you’re talking about. Before you open your trap about people in war why don’t you prove you know what you’re talking about. Last time I checked you write a blog about manliness (badly I might add) and are sitting safe and cozy in front of that computer screen. Lets see your enlistment papers pal. Put em up here in a PDF for all of us. Show us you’ve been there before you judge that gunner. These men in heaven would be giving you the middle finger right now if they read this article.

“No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”
- Attributed to General George Patton Jr

11 KevinA. July 25, 2008 at 5:42 pm

These gentlemen are my heroes. Thanks for sharing their stories.

12 Beowulf87 July 25, 2008 at 7:24 pm

Some REAL men.

13 Brett July 25, 2008 at 10:53 pm

@JFrame-

It seems you have completely misread this post.

“So if I don’t let myself get killed for my buddies I’m not a “real�? man?”

Where does the post say this? Perhaps you are not familiar with this blog’s “Lessons in Manliness” series but we often profile great men and draw lessons from their lives that can be applied to all men, no matter their circumstances. Your argument is as ridiculous as posting a comment on our LiM on Theodore Roosevelt like “So if I don’t become a US president than I’m not a real man?” The idea of the post was to get men to think about the virtue of sacrifice.

“Also, I’m a little peeved that you took offense to the one gunner bailing when the grenade landed.”

Again, where on earth are you getting this? Where did I “talk down” to that gunner? I simply added that part of the story to highlight the fact that McGinnis’ action was extraordinary and unique. The other gunner’s decision was completely understandable. But it also shows the amazing selflessness of what McGinnis’ did.

“What about my kids? What about those who depend on me to survive for them?”

What about the kids of the 6 men these 2 men saved? These men decided that it was better for 2 men to die than 8. That’s pretty amazing.

“Lets see your enlistment papers pal.”

Ah, you caught me! I didn’t serve in the military. And I forgot that only people who have served can honor those who did and draw inspiration from them. I hope you patrol the next Veteran’s Day parade with a megaphone, shouting at all the non-vets to get their BS-ing butts home.

“These men in heaven would be giving you the middle finger right now if they read this article.”

What?? Men who willingly sacrificed themselves for their brothers would be cursing me for honoring that sacrifice?? Sorry, buddy, but if there’s any profanity in heaven right now, it’s reserved for incredibly obtuse men like yourself.

14 Cameron Schaefer July 26, 2008 at 7:04 am

@ JFrame,

Also, please don’t misuse a Patton quote to try to prove your point. Patton was simply saying NEEDLESSLY dying for your country wasn’t the main goal. I don’t think saving several of your own men’s lives falls into the same category. I doubt the families of the soldiers who were saved do either.

15 cory July 27, 2008 at 6:14 pm

Listen, this is a great article. All the naysayers are missing the point: you must, in any given moment, protect those around you.

You can do it at work. My boss, one of the greatest men I have ever met, has in more than one instance “jumped on the grenade” for me with these simple words: “I’m sorry; it’s my fault.”

It’s not just about being willing to die. It’s about realizing you are the only one who can protect the people around you in a given circumstance. It’s about manning up when those around you are too weak to do it for themselves.

16 Michael July 28, 2008 at 1:58 pm

“No greater love has a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

17 Sam February 24, 2009 at 6:59 pm

It IS haunting to read his Myspace page. It makes you wonder what you’re doing with your life and what legacy you’ll leave behind when you’re gone…

18 Oyaji May 22, 2009 at 7:05 am

Great men.

You never know what anyone will do. Some of the “toughest” crumble, while the ones you would never think of become the bravest. The bravest man I ever knew was our unit Medic. Originally, he was picked on because he was small, scrawny and a “Pecker-Checker,” but in our first action and thereafter, he was magnificent. When others went to the ground, he moved to the danger. Time and again. “Guns Up” and Doc right behind them. Survived it all without a scratch.

I was saddened to learn that he committed suicide only 6 months after he rotated back to the States. He had stared into the Darkness for too long and I guess that he didn’t like what he saw. He is missed…

19 Matthew October 11, 2009 at 11:19 am

BZ!

Brett, though you may not be a shipmate of mine, I commend you for the recognition of these Men. Their’ selflessness is something we should all aspire to.

Along with all of the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen who have paid the ultimate price for the freedom of others, I think it is equally important to honor the sacrifice of those whose battles are a little closer to home. Honoring the sacrifice of firefighters, police, doctors, teachers, any of these civil servants who take care of and watch over MY family when I am overseas deserve my respect and admiration as much as my brothers in arms who never were able to return home.

If you are in any of these catagories, I tell you now, “THANK YOU!” It is only through your sacrifice that I can give mine.

V/R,
M.A.P.
QM3(SW), USN

20 BH October 22, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Great post!!

I am serving at a MEPS and we have just dedicated our ceremony room to PFC McGinnis. His father spoke with pride and reverance that I think only a father could have.

Far too many of our young men fail to see how such a sacrifice is honorable and selfless.

BH
Active Duty Soldier

21 alexa October 23, 2009 at 11:43 pm

I am an American woman.

I’ve been a reader of this blog for about a year now. I find it fascinating, educational and thoroughly enjoyable. I especially appreciate the maturity and dignity it endeavors to teach. I always hope that more men who read this blog will take the valuable lessons to heart. This is the first time I have left a comment.

The greatness of our nation relies entirely on the strength of character of her people. We admire and support the men who display the virtues that we believe in.

We must, at a minimum, never forget the sacrifice of her finest citizens, such as they who have received recognition for it from their brothers in arms, the people they trust most. Let’s face it: those of us back here in the homeland too often go weak in the knees and lose our backbone at the first sign of tough going. Right when our troops need us the most to be strong for them, to cheer them on, to believe in them, to have faith that they deserve the victory their brothers have already died fighting for.

In the name of the men who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

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