Division West NCO attends battle buddy's White House Medal of Honor ceremony
March 1, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Soldiers frequently have the privilege of standing in formation while a fellow Soldier is awarded a commander's coin, named NCO of the month, or recognized with an award. However, very few are privileged enough to stand in the East Room of the White House while the President presents their battle buddy from basic training with the nation's highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor, in the name of Congress.
Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Harris, assigned to Division West's 181st Infantry Brigade at Fort McCoy, Wis., was one of those privileged few last month.
Harris, an observer controller/trainer in 1st Battalion, 310th Infantry Regiment, received an invitation from the White House to attend the ceremony presenting the Medal of Honor to his longtime friend, Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha.
Harris and Romesha met in 1999, when they attended basic training together at Fort Knox, Ky. As tank crewmen, their friendship continued in their first duty assignment to the 1st Infantry Division in Vilseck, Germany, and then a deployment to Kosovo with 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment. As their paths continued to cross over the next 11 years of their Army careers, the two Soldiers and their Families remained good friends.
Romesha received the Medal of Honor for his performance while engaged in an action against the enemy during the October 2009 defense of Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan's Nuristan Province. His actions were critical in suppressing an enemy force of more than 300 fighters and in organizing an effective counterattack, which eventually allowed his troop to secure the outpost. An estimated 150 enemies were killed in the fight, while 22 Americans were wounded and eight U.S. Soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice in what remains one of the bloodiest battles of the Afghanistan campaign.
Harris said he was very honored to receive the personal invitation to Romesha's award ceremony and immediately made plans to travel to the nation's capital. His three days in Washington included a tour of the White House with other honored guests, attendance at ceremonies in both the East Room and the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes, a private gathering at their hotel hosted by Command Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler, and opportunities to re-unite with old friends.
Though unable to personally meet his commander-in-chief, Harris said he was proud to have met and talked with many distinguished military and political leaders, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno.
Harris said he was thankful to share in the opportunity to recognize the gallantry of his friend and fellow Soldier, while also honoring the memory of the eight American service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the nation.