By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
Since the Vietnam War, five soldiers have received the Medal of Honor. Four of those were noncommissioned officers. One a private first class.
As 2009, the Army's year of the noncommissioned officer, nears its end, retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan addressed the Central Texas-Fort Hood Chapter of the Association of the United States Army Tuesday evening to talk about noncommissioned officers and what they represent. Sullivan is president of the Association of the United States Army.
Though Sullivan talked about each of the four sergeants who received the Medal of Honor – Master Sgt. Gary I. Gordon, Sgt. 1st Class Randall D. Shughart, Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti and Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith – he focused on Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis.
McGinnis was a machine gunner with 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, in Adhamiyah, Northeast Baghdad, Iraq, on Dec. 4, 2006. As his platoon was conducting combat operations, an insurgent threw a fragmentation grenade into the gunner's hatch of McGinnis' vehicle. He yelled, "grenade," to the other four soldiers in his crew and threw himself on the grenade. His body absorbed most of the explosion, according to information from the Army. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on June 2, 2008.
"The spirit of a soldier was put into him by noncommissioned officers," Sullivan said.
He went on to say that sergeants represent competence, courage and spirit.
"All of which were demonstrated here at Fort Hood, Texas, in the last two weeks by soldiers, civilians, officers, warrant officers, family members and you in this room who support soldiers so importantly," Sullivan told the local chapter members who sat before him.
The retired general talked about the aftermath of the Nov. 5 shooting that left 13 dead and more than three times that number wounded at Fort Hood. He attended the Nov. 10 memorial service for the victims and said he was surprised to see the barriers that encased the ceremony site at III Corps headquarters.
But, he watched the American flag and the III Corps flag with its numerous battle streamers fluttering in the breeze and saw the faces of those Americans it represented, and knew one thing: the Army was "getting on with it."
"And the Army keeps rolling along," he said.
The 300 million citizens of the United States of America are behind you, Sullivan said to the Fort Hood soldiers and families and local community members who listened, fixated on his every word Tuesday night.
"Just know that we're with you and we're praying for you," he added.
Sullivan retired in 1995 after more than 36 years of Army service. He is proud to say he was an American soldier.
"I am proud to say that I have served with people like you.
"Thanks for what you do, thanks for your courage and thanks for what you're going to do."
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7547.
More from Tuesday's meeting
Also at Tuesday's general membership meeting of the Central Texas-Fort Hood Chapter of the Association of the United States Army:
Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, talked about the post's efforts to increase mental health care awareness following the Nov. 5 shooting and asked for the local communities' help.
"Our work is ahead of us," Cone said.
Because the accused shooter is a soldier, there is a matter of trust between soldiers, civilians, families and the communities.
"Help rebuild that trust," Cone said. "Our soldiers deserve that trust."
The general has called upon leaders at Fort Hood and in the surrounding communities to reach out to anyone who needs help. Encourage them to step up now so it helps long term, he added.
The chapter was again recognized for earning the distinction of being the largest AUSA chapter in the world. The Fort Bragg, N.C., chapter has held that honor for the last 35 years, but was dethroned at the end of the association's fiscal year in June.
Central Texas-Fort Hood had 17,656 members, 164 more than the Braxton Bragg chapter.
The local chapter was recognized at the association's national meeting in early October in Washington, D.C.
It was a huge accomplishment and very, very few people thought it could happen, said retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, association president.
"Certainly not the people of Fort Bragg, N.C.," he added.