Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teen Sings of Soldier's Final Act

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teen Sings of Soldier's Final Act

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods

After he died in Iraq -- after people heard how Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis had died -- the mailbox at his parents' home in rural Pennsyvlania started to fill up.

Tom and Romayne McGinnis received all kinds of messages, from strangers near and far. But the contents of one envelope stood out.

A 14-year-old girl in Jacksonville didn't just write a heartfelt note. She enclosed a CD.

It was a song she had recorded -- Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis.

The story of how Destany Hotard, a freshman at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, ended up singing a song about a 19-year-old soldier from Knox, Pa., starts last winter in California.

Seth Jackson, a Los Angeles songwriter, opened his newspaper one morning, read the list of troops who had died and found a wire story with a few details about one death in particular.

An insurgent on a Baghdad rooftop had flung a grenade toward a Humvee. McGinnis, who was manning a machine gun in the turret, tried to deflect the grenade. But when it fell into the Humvee, he jumped down into the vehicle and pinned the grenade behind his back.

It went off, killing him instantly. The four other soldiers in the Humvee survived.

McGinnis was 19, the youngest in his Army unit.

After reading the story, and seeing other readers' reaction printed in the paper in following days, Jackson decided to write a song. About McGinnis' final act. About how news of it appeared on page 28 in his paper. About how he hoped it made the front pages in Pennsylvania.

He eventually sent the song to a friend in Jacksonville. Lorna Greenwood, a singer and musician who also coaches voice, showed it to one of her pupils, a girl named Destany.

"I went and looked up his name and tried to find out as much as I could," she said. "And when I found out it was a true story, I was like, 'Wow.'"

She recorded the song, posted it on her MySpace page and sent a copy to the McGinnis family. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review heard about it and did a story. …

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