Ross McGinnis graduated high school in 2005. This Knox, Pennsylvania teenager enlisted in the Army, just before turning 18. He wanted to serve his country and be sent to an unpopular war. During his tour in Iraq, he would be involved in an intense firefight just months out of basic training. Two years later, he would give his lives not for his country but for his friends and fellow soldiers.
The story unfolds on a routine patrol in Baghdad. Himself along with four other soldiers were in a humvee when a grenade was thrown from a building. Since Ross was on the rooftop machine gun, he was the only one to see it.
"GRENADE!!", he yelled. As his fellow soldiers looked frantically for it, Ross got out of the gun turret and jumped down into the humvee. He pressed his back against where the grenade landed. His entire body absorbed the blast, saving the rest of his squad.
When Ross woke up that morning, he did not plan to sacrifice his life. When he joined the Army, he he knew he would get into dangerous battles; but he never imagined himself actually dying.
Ross, like every other person, lived his life day by day, moment by moment.
His choice of self-sacrifice doesn’t make much sense. Our instincts are to flee or fight danger. In the animal kingdom, rarely does one see a creature give it’s life for the betterment of another. What Ross did was make a choice to give his life, to end his life, so that others may live.
Why do stories like these inspire us with hope? What is it about these stories that humble us? Do you wonder if you would have made the same choice? Do you put yourself in the same situation and go over the decision in your head?
The reality is the decision to give your life for something else is not planned nor is it calculated. It is a split-second decision. Ross didn’t learn it at basic training nor was he taught that in school. I suspect that within that iota of a second, he recalled the sacrifice of others in his life. I like to imagine that he realized that his choice was not about living or dying; it was about saving. He knew someone was going to die. He choice that person to be himself.
Why are stories like these rare? Outside of these stories, the only self-sacrificing we see are in movies.
I would like to think I would have made the choice to sacrifice myself to save others. I like to think that I could demonstrate what God has done for me and be willing to do it for others. But the fact is that I should do this now: be willing to risk my life for others. I don’t mean go into burning buildings. No, I mean more willing to do something outside myself. The truth is that I don’t want to.
We’d all like to be like Ross. The truth is we’re faced with similar choices every day. What choice do you make?