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This site gets much traffic from all around the world, from people searching for news from Iraq, making it an ideal place to host stories from deployed forces in harm’s way.  In my travels I’ve met many budding writers who are now wearing boots and carrying rifles, and I found their stories so compelling that I want the world to see.

Hoping for a miracle?

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By Joseph L. Galloway
McClatchy Newspapers

January 10, 2007

There’s an old sign posted at U.S. Army Ranger School. It says simply: “Hope is not a method, unless you are the chaplain.”

President George W. Bush went on national television this week and laid out for the American people a plan for a “New Way Forward” in Iraq that appears to be based on nothing more than hoping for a miracle.

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Hero sacrifices himself saving fellow soldiers

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By Staff Sgt. W. Wayne Marlow
2nd BCT, 2nd Inf. Div.

PFC Ross A. McGinnis

 

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq – Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis packed only 136 pounds into his 6-foot frame, but few have ever matched his inner strength.

McGinnis sacrificed himself in an act of supreme bravery on Dec. 4, belying his status as the youngest Soldier in Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

For saving the lives of his friends and giving up his own in the process, McGinnis earned the Silver Star, posthumously. He, likewise, is being considered for the Congressional Medal of Honor.

His unit paid their final respects in a somber ceremony here Dec. 11.

The 19-year-old amateur mechanic from Knox, Pa., who enjoyed poker and loud music, likely saved the lives of four Soldiers riding with him on a mission in the Adhamiyah section of Baghdad. McGinnis was manning the gunner’s hatch when an insurgent tossed a grenade from above. It flew past McGinnis and down through the hatch before lodging near the radio mount.

His platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Cedric Thomas of Longview, Texas, recalled what happened next.

“Pfc. McGinnis yelled ‘Grenade…It’s in the truck,’” Thomas said. “I looked out of the corner of my eye as I was crouching down and I saw him pin it down.”

McGinnis did so even though he could have escaped.

“He had time to jump out of the truck,” Thomas said. “He chose not to.”

Thomas remembered McGinnis talking about how he would respond in such a situation.
McGinnis said then he didn’t know how he would act, but when the time came, he delivered.

“He gave his life to save his crew and his platoon sergeant,” Thomas said. “He’s a hero. He’s a professional. He was just an awesome guy.”

Three of the Soldiers with McGinnis that day have returned to duty, while a fourth is recovering in Germany.

McGinnis was born June 14, 1987, and joined the Army right after graduating high school in 2005. He had been in the Army 18 months and made his mark even before his heroic deed.

“He was a good kid,” said C Company’s senior enlisted Soldier, 1st Sgt. Kenneth J. Hendrix. “He had just gotten approved for a waiver to be promoted to specialist.”

He also appeared on the Nov. 30 cover of Stars & Stripes, manning his turret.
Besides his military accomplishments, McGinnis leaves his friends and family with memories of a fun-loving, loyal man.

Pfc. Brennan Beck, a 1-26 infantryman from Lodi, Calif., said McGinnis made others feel better.

“He would go into a room and when he left, everyone was laughing,” Beck said. “He did impersonations of others in the company. He was quick-witted, just hilarious. He loved making people laugh. He was a comedian through and through.”

While having a witty side, McGinnis took his job seriously.

“He was not a garrison Soldier. He hated it back in garrison,” Beck said. “He loved it here in Iraq. He loved being a gunner. It was a thrill, he loved everything about it. He was one our best Soldiers. He did a great job.”

Beck has memories of talking all night with McGinnis about where they wanted their lives to go, and said McGinnis always remembered his friends.

“When I had my appendix removed, he was the only one who visited me in the hospital,” Beck said. “That meant a lot.”

Another 1-26 infantryman, Pfc.Michael Blair of Klamath Falls, Ore., recalled that McGinnis helped him when he arrived at Ledward Barracks in Schweinfurt, Germany.

“When I first came to the unit…he was there and took me in and showed me around,” Blair said. “He was real easy to talk to. You could tell him anything. He was a funny guy. He was always making somebody laugh.”

McGinnis’ final heroic act came as no surprise to Blair.

“He was that kind of person,” Blair said. “He would rather take it himself than have his buddies go down.”

The brigade’s senior noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. William Johnson, also had high praise for McGinnis.

“Anytime when you get a Soldier to do something like that - to give his life to protect his fellow Soldiers - that’s what heroes are made of,” Johnson said.

It also demonstrates, Johnson continued, that the ‘MySpace Generation’ has what it takes to carry on the Army’s proud traditions.

“Some think Soldiers who come in today are all about themselves,” Johnson said. “I see it differently.”

The Silver Star has already been approved for McGinnis’ actions Dec.4. The Medal of Honor may follow.

“We’re looking at that right now,” Johnson said.

War of Words

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By Joseph L. Galloway
McClatchy Tribune News Service

As the civil war in Iraq fast approaches terminal velocity, the Bush administration is fighting a war of words, and it seems to be losing that one, too.

An administration once famous for sticking to “the message” like a burr on a fuzzy dog is now all over the map, speaking out of both sides of every mouth.

It’s a civil war. Is not. Is too.

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Between Iraq and a Hard Place

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By Joseph L. Galloway
McClatchy Tribune News Service

We would appear to be trapped between Iraq and a hard place.

Even as former Secretary of State James Baker and his bipartisan commission on Iraq labor to construct some sort of smokescreen for President George W. Bush, at the behest of his daddy, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Peter Pace, has his own E-Ring committee looking for answers to the problem.

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Glory Days

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By Joseph L. Galloway
McClatchy Tribune News Service

Former secretary of state James Baker and his independent commission are searching for a new strategy for Iraq, and legislators of both parties will soon begin looking for a compromise answer to the same knotty problem. But it’s past time to start repairing the damage the Bush administration’s way of war has done to our Army and our Marine Corps.

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Update: Humanitarian Catastrophe in Sri Lanka

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Tensions have long existed between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority populations in Sri Lanka. But they began to veer into violence in 1972 when the Singhalese government declared that the national language would be Singhalese and the national religion Buddhism. These decrees effectively marginalized the Tamil minority in every way, as they were systematically denied access to universities, places in the government, and were widely discriminated against. Hostilities came to a head on July 23, 1983, when riots broke out that saw up to 3,000 Tamils killed and tens of thousands of Tamil homes and businesses destroyed.

Read more: Update: Humanitarian Catastrophe in Sri Lanka

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