While most Columbusites know and cherish the military families in our community, many locals do not know that Columbus is home to some very significant war memorials. The National Infantry Museum located at Fort Benning holds the nation's leading exhibits on the United States Infantry, our military's history, and some of the most precious military artifacts in the world. In addition to the museum's massive collection, the grounds are home to several memorials including the new Global War on Terrorism Memorial.
Opened just last year, the Global War on Terrorism Memorial bears the names of nearly 7,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have died in service since 9/11. This weekend, the memorial will be rededicated to honor 28 more service men and women who have perished in the last year.
About the Memorial
The Global War on Terrorism Memorial includes eight granite panels etched with the names of all those lost to the War on Terrorism. These panels are accompanied by narrative panels chronicling the nation’s longest war in history.
A 13-foot steel beam taken from the wreckage of the World Trade Center sits atop concrete columns representing the Twin Towers. The beam was donated to the museum by New York City firefighters who were present at last year's dedication.
At the center of the memorial stands an Infantry squad of nine bronze figures based on illustrations of each service’s role in protecting our nation. Leading the squad is Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis, who was a Fort Benning soldier that was killed in action at the age of 19. McGinnis received the Medal of Honor for acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty. The specific circumstances of his act of heroism are described below:
While Private McGinnis was manning the M2 .50-caliber Machine Gun, a fragmentation grenade thrown by an insurgent fell through the gunner's hatch into the vehicle. Reacting quickly, he yelled "grenade," allowing all four members of his crew to prepare for the grenade's blast. Then, rather than leaping from the gunner's hatch to safety, Private McGinnis made the courageous decision to protect his crew. In a selfless act of bravery, in which he was mortally wounded, Private McGinnis covered the live grenade, pinning it between his body and the vehicle and absorbing most of the explosion.
-From McGinnis' Official Citation for Medal of Honor
Choosing McGinnis to lead the Infantry Squad at the Memorial was important to the officials at Fort Benning. "It was very special to us to have him at the front of the Memorial," said Michelle Brown, Associate Director of Development at the Infantry Museum. "He was a true hero. The idea that he so selflessly, and instantly, gave his life at the age of 19 to save his men? It's incredible."
The rededication will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning, after a private breakfast with the families of this year's honorees. The rededication ceremony is open to the public, and all are encouraged to attend. For those who are unable to attend, the ceremony will be live-streamed from the Museum that morning.
If you go, know that there is a tradition with coins at national memorials. Leaving a penny acknowledges that you have visited the memorial to pay your respect. leaving a nickel indicates that you trained at bootcamp with the fallen soldier. A dime means that you served with the service man or woman. A quarter means that you were with the soldier when they were killed.
Plan to take the time to leave a coin in honor of your relationship with the fallen heroes honored at the memorial. It matters, and all of the money left is collected and poured back into the National Infantry Museum's donation fund.
For more information, or to plan your visit to the National Infantry Museum, visit http://nationalinfantrymuseum.org.