WASHINGTON, D.C. — Soldiers frequently have the privilege of standing in formation while a fellow soldier is promoted or presented an award. Not many get to stand in the East Room of the White House while the president presents their basic training battle buddy with the nation’s highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor.
Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Harris, assigned to Division West’s 181st Infantry Brigade at Fort McCoy, Wis., was one of those privileged few.
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 at 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 soldiers remained friends.
Romesha received the Medal of Honor for his performance while engaged 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.
Harris said he was honored to receive the personal invitation to Romesha’s award ceremony. His three days in Washington included a tour of the White House, attendance at ceremonies in both the East Room and the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, a private gathering hosted by Army Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Chandler and opportunities to reunite with old friends.
Harris said he was proud to have 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.