|By Capt. Rob Lodewick, 181st Infantry Brigade Public
Soldiers frequently have the privilege of standing in formation while a
fellow Soldier is awarded a Commander’s Coin, selected Noncommissioned
Officer (NCO) of the Month, or recognized with a Permanent Change of
Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Harris (left) of the 181st Infantry
Brigade at Fort McCoy reunites with his long-time military
friend, Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha, at the White House. Harris
received an invitation from the White House to attend the
ceremony where Romesha received the Medal of Honor for his
actions during a battle in Afghanistan.
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. Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Harris from Fort McCoy’s 181st
Infantry Brigade, part of First Army, lived this experience Feb. 11.
Harris, a trainer/mentor assigned to 1st Battalion, 310th Infantry,
received an invitation from the White House to attend the ceremony
presenting the Medal of Honor to his long-time friend, Staff Sgt.
Romesha received the Medal of Honor for distinguishing himself
conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above
and beyond the call of duty. Romesha did so while engaged in an action
against the enemy during the October 2009 defense of Combat Outpost
(COP) Keating, in Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province. Romesha’s gallant
actions under fire proved critical at suppressing an enemy force of more
than 300 fighters, and in organizing an effective counterattack, which
eventually allowed his troop to secure the COP, according to the award
An estimated 150 enemy combatants were killed in the fight, while 22
Americans were wounded and eight U.S. Soldiers made the ultimate
sacrifice and died, in what remains one of the bloodiest battles of the
Harris first met Romesha in 1999 when they attended Combat Basic
Training together at Fort Knox, Ky. As 19K series tank crewmen, their
friendship continued throughout their first duty assignment to the 1st
Infantry Division in Vilseck, Germany and throughout a deployment to
Kosovo with the 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment.
“During our training exercises, Staff Sergeant Romesha always set the
standard, knowing not only his job inside and out, but that of the
positions above him as well,” Harris said. “As a private first class, he
frequently was called upon to fulfill roles and responsibilities of an
E-5 (sergeant) or higher.”
As their paths continued to cross over the next 11 years, the two NCOs
and their Families remained good friends throughout their Army careers.
Romesha left the military in 2011 to spend more time with his Family.
Harris was very honored to receive the personal invitation to the
ceremony and immediately made plans to travel to the nation’s capital.
His three days in Washington, D.C. included a personal tour of the White
House, attendance at ceremonies in both the East Room and the Pentagon’s
Hall of Heroes, a private gathering at their hotel hosted by Sgt. Maj.
of the Army Raymond Chandler, and numerous opportunities to re-unite
with and embrace old friends. Though unable to personally meet his
Commander in Chief, President Obama, Harris 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 remains very grateful for the opportunity to attend such a
prestigious award ceremony and was thankful to have shared in the
opportunity to recognize the gallantry of his long-time friend and
fellow Soldier, while also honoring the memory of the eight American
servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the nation.
“Staff Sergeant Romesha cares about his fellow Soldiers, their Families
and his friends,” said Harris. “His tank crews knew gunnery tactics
inside and out, and he frequently spent his off-duty time helping
Soldiers study for upcoming boards and exams. He always was someone you
could count on and was always there, through the good times and the