I remember Michael Ross as a cute little boy. He's the son of old friends from Liverpool Doug and Janice Ross. When I had first returned home to the Syracuse area to work as a television news reporter some 23 years ago Janice and Doug were fairly new parents. Michael was adorable. Years passed and he excelled in gymnastics.
I recall a sense of rebellion. His parents wondered which direction his life would take. He discovered the military or perhaps it discovered him. He signed up to be an Airborne Ranger.
The job title alone is enough to instill a sense of fear in any proud parent. This is life and death work. One glance at Sgt. Michael Ross and his growing record of honors and achievement it's hard to recall that cute little boy. He is a man among men. Knowing the warmth and kindness of his parents it would have been difficult to predict Michael would one day parachute behind enemy lines and accomplish missions beyond comprehension for those who have not walked in his boots.
He has deployed six times into the theatre of modern warfare spread between America's two fronts in the Post-9/11 world: Iraq and Afghanistan. Sgt. Ross's 1st Battallion, 75th Ranger Regiment was honored as a whole last week for extraordinary heroism. The Army credits them for "unwavering fidelity while executing numerous and diverse missions, both acknowledged and classified."
These highly trained soldiers dropped behind enemy lines to go where other units did not dare. Their combat actions "substantially contributed to the success of the United States in dismantling the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan." It's no wonder a 4-star commanding general came to Georgia to pin the medals on their chest.
It's no wonder Michael's parents are left to wonder about his location and his safety every time he deploys. It was last April when Sgt. Ross risked his own life to protect an wounded teammate while the enemy fired from "superior positions." He returned fire and move his "fellow ranger to the only cover available" while waiting for support from his fellow rangers.
Sgt. Ross said, "You have to act. That is all we can do. The best thing about being here is you know that anyone in this formation that was behind us earlier would have done the same thing." Anyone in the formation may have, but not every young man walking the streets today.
Sgt. Michael Ross was singled out in this case for being the ultimate team player - defending his buddy, his fellow soldier while also defending his country.
That cute little boy now can proudly wear the Silver Star. The third highest military honor for valor in combat.
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