Last week, President Bush presented Tom and Romayne McGinnis with a posthumous Medal of Honor for their son, Private First Class Ross Andrew McGinnis. Ross was killed in Iraq in December 2004 when he threw his body in front of a grenade to protect four of his fellow soldiers, saving their lives. Bush praised Ross’s heroism, and pledged to “never forget” the soldiers “who came forward to bear the battle” for “freedom and security” in Iraq:
The day will come when the mission he served has been completed and the fighting is over, and freedom and security have prevailed. America will never forget those who came forward to bear the battle. America will always honor the name of this brave soldier who gave all for his country, and was taken to rest at age 19.
Ross’s father, Tom McGinnis, is holding Bush to his word. The next day, McGinnis called on Bush to sign the 21st Century GI bill, while speaking at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes induction:
Our troops when they get home also need our support. … They need to be able to continue their education where they left off. And so I say thank you to the Senate and House who have helped to pass the new GI bill. Now this GI bill only needs the signature of the President of the United States to become law. And I think it’s time that George Bush can sign this bill and make it law to show his appreciation for the support these loyal youth have given him.
McGinnis told the Army Times that he felt he had to seize the opportunity to speak out about the bill while in Washington: “If I didn’t do it when I was down there at the Pentagon or the White House, one of the two, when will I ever have the chance to make an impact?”
Both Bush and the Pentagon oppose Webb’s GI bill. A Pentagon spokesman said it was inappropriate to award educational benefits “after only” two years of service. Opponents of the bill misleadingly cite a Congressional Budget Office report to claim that the bill would harm retention rates, ignoring the report’s finding that the bill would encourage 30,000 new recruits every year.
In threatening to veto the bill, Bush is ignoring the substantial majority of both houses of Congress, along with an overwhelming majority of American citizens. Will Bush also ignore the father of one of America’s greatest heroes?
I want to appreciate, I want you to know that we appreciate all memorials, the gifts, the special attention that we’ve been given since Ross died. It has helped enormously with our grief process. But I feel there is somebody else out there that’s much more important than Romayne and I, and that’s the troops that are still active. Most of these men and women are very young, they’re a long ways from home, they’re afraid sometimes of the things they’re going to be called on to do, and so they need our support. They need to know that what they’re doing is appreciated by the people back home. They all experience home sickness. They miss the comforts that they’ve had, that they’ve given up, to do what they have to do. So I think it’s important that we show them our appreciation by sending them gifts, letters, and things like that that would remind them that they are appreciated and that they will be welcomed when they come home.
We’ve had the support of hundreds and hundreds of people — family, friends, and strangers that have helped us deal with what we had to go through. And this is a good thing. But our troops when they get home also need our support. They put their lives on the line for us, sometimes for four years, sometimes for two years, sometimes for 20 years. But when they get home, they also need our support. And many of these people were very young when they left home, they put aside their education and went into the service because it’s young people that make up the active army and really do the fighting for us. So we owe them an ability to be able to return home and become a productive part of their society. They need to be able to continue their education where they left off. And so I say thank you to the Senate and House who have helped to pass the new GI bill. Now this GI bill only needs the signature of the President of the United States to become law. And I think it’s time that George Bush can sign this bill and make it law to show his appreciation for the support these loyal youth have given him.