Face of Defense: Brothers Reunite in Iraq
By Army Pvt. Emily V. Knitter
1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
BAGHDAD, April 9, 2010 Darkness falls as a Chinook helicopter lands on the rocky landing pad inside an Army camp south of here. As soldiers walk down the ramp toward a small building close by, two sergeants stand bathed in the yellow light of the building's overhang, peering excitedly into the darkness and impatiently searching the faces coming off the aircraft. Then they both lock onto one shape coming toward them.
Army Sgt. Joshua Harrison, Spc. Justin Harrison and Sgt. Jeremiah Harrison grin for a photo April 5, 2010, on Contingency Operating Station Falcon, Iraq, moments after reuniting for the first time since their deployment began. U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Emily V. Knitter
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"Whoop!" one of the two soldiers cries out as the target of their gaze comes out of the shadows. All three soldiers grin from ear to ear as they exchange in greetings and bear hugs.
The three soldiers are brothers, and all are deployed in Iraq. It’s the first time they've been together since leaving the United States four months ago. All are assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team. The youngest brother, Spc. Justin Harrison, is deployed west of Baghdad at Camp Striker with 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery, and the older Harrison brothers – Sgts. Jeremiah and Joshua Harrison -- are based to the south at Contingency Operating Station Falcon.
The brothers, originally from Fort Walton Beach, Fla., began filtering into the 3rd Infantry Division eight years ago when Jeremiah, a tracked-vehicle mechanic now assigned to 3rd Brigade Support Battalion, arrived right before Operation Iraqi Freedom began in 2003.
"At the time, I was married, and things kind of went south,” he said. “I was falling pretty bad, and Josh came to my rescue, kind of like the brotherly thing. He re-enlisted to come to [Fort Stewart, Ga.] to help me out."
Then three years ago, Justin joined the Army as a wheeled-vehicle mechanic.
"When I first got in, I wanted a whole bunch of advice on how basic training and advanced individual training was going to be,” he said. “During training, I would call them up and be like, 'Hey, is regular military like this?'"
For the past 14 years, the brothers have been raised solely by their father, a retired Air Force senior master sergeant. "We have always been close, no matter what's happening in our family and through our life," said Jeremiah, who has deployed four times. "We talk … about it now, but there's been a lot of ups and downs. There's always been the four guys, no matter what. And when Dad was deployed, it was the three of us. There is nothing that breaks that up."
After he graduated from basic combat training, Justin found out he was going to Fort Stewart as well. "During AIT, I wrote down on my wish list Fort Stewart for my No. 1 choice on where I wanted to go. And just by luck, I got it," he said.
Now the brothers can't imagine what life would be like without all three of them. "The awe-inspiring thing is, when I'm driving to work and having a bad day, and I see one of them driving down the street, we can spot each other from a mile away," Jeremiah explained. "I can't believe we haven't caused any accidents yet, because we just link eyes and don't pay attention to the road as we drive by.
"It's just awesome, I mean we call each other and go out for lunch, and it's brothers. It's not Sergeant Harrison and Sergeant Harrison any more. It's, 'Hey, Josh, what's up?'"
Joshua Harrison, a tracked-wheel vehicle mechanic who has deployed three times, agreed. "You may need to discuss some things with friends, some things with family,” he said, “but I always have my brothers there in case I need to talk to them about something."
Then the brothers looked at each other and burst out laughing. They transitioned from talking about the closeness of their relationship to a story about a time Joshua broke his toe with an ease only close siblings can develop. As the story unfolded, the back-and-forth banter was nonstop, as Jeremiah and Joshua argued about the details. But they became more serious when describing how challenging it is to get together as a family.
"We haven't had a Christmas as a family since before the Army," said Joshua, who is with 1st Brigade’s 3rd Special Troops Battalion. "There is always some kind of a deployment or some crazy thing going on, so it's kind of kept us apart. But us being together on Stewart, the three of us, has kept us together."
Although Justin is assigned to a different base, knowing that his brothers are close has helped his first deployment in Iraq, he said.
"My brothers are the best noncommissioned officers I've ever met,” he said. “Jeremiah sacrifices himself 100 percent for his soldiers every day; that's my idol. If I were to become anything, I'd want to be him. And Josh is an amazing NCO, too. I haven't really talked to them much since we've been out here. We're always at work, they're always at work, so it's hard to stay in touch. But I've been trying to get over to Falcon to see them."
Jeremiah and Joshua agreed that being apart has its moments of difficulty for all of them. "I always think about how he's doing, what he's doing, if he's doing all right," Jeremiah said. "We talk a lot … about the youngest one, but he's the baby. We kind of support him in whatever he needs. But in the end, you have to leave it up to letting things fall into place as they should."
Back at the landing pad as the soldiers embrace, it appears that at least for a few days while Justin visits, everything actually has fallen into place for three brothers in Iraq.