Hometown Soldier Featured In ‘Sacred Duty’
ARLINGTON – Released just in time for Memorial Day, Senator Tom Cotton’s Sacred Duty traces the storied history of the U.S. Army’s honor guard stationed at Arlington. Known as the Old Guard, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment has a myriad of responsibilities including guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns, planning and hosting official military visits and interring fallen heroes at Arlington National Cemetery.
Cotton, a Republican senator from Arkansas, writes that he was a platoon leader with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment between combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the height of the Iraq surge, he carried the flag-draped remains of his fallen comrades off the airplanes at Dover Air Force Base, and he laid them to rest in Arlington’s famed Section 60, “the saddest acre in America.” He also performed hundreds of funerals for veterans of the Greatest Generation, as well as the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Described as part history, part memoir of Cotton’s time at Arlington, and part intimate profile of today’s soldiers, much of Sacred duty was written while Captain Larry Harris, a Water Valley native, was in command at The Old Guard. As part of his research, Cotton explains that he returned to Arlington and shadowed the regiment’s soldiers, from daily funerals to the state funeral of George H.W. Bush to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, reliving the honor – and the challenges – of duty at the nation’s “most sacred shrine.”
During this time Harris served as an advisor to Cotton and his team and assisted in crafting the narrative of the book. Harris logged almost two years as Commander of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, serving in distinguished roles and special events to represent the Army – communicating its story to the nation and the world.
Harris is featured in Sacred Duty performing numerous duties during this time – photos showing him performing his duties as the Commander of Troops at the Tomb of the Unknowns, overseeing the advancing of the National Colors at the Tomb of the Unknowns, presenting a flag and giving condolences on behalf of a grateful nation, and leading a Presidential cordon for Veteran’s Day.
“This book really is an immersive look at the Army’s most historic unit,” Harris explains. “It provides details on everything from uniform preparation, care for horses, and how every mission is performed.”
Part of this is portrayed through Harris’ input about intimate details of the Old Guard. He describes the 700-pound casket that is carried for 100 meters, while showing professionalism.
“The skinny, runner-type isn’t the right fit for caskets,” Harris explains, adding that the caskets “has our most muscle-bound soldiers.”
He describes the attention to detail, a team of professional tailors who handle intricate uniform alterations in a matter of hours. He shares how the Old Guard soldiers learn intangible skills like attention to detail, poise, leadership and problem-solving that often put them ahead of their peers at other units – a unique experience that prepares them for their next assignment.
And for next assignments, Harris has been selected for promotion to Major and has transitioned out of Command of Charlie Company. Immediately following his departure, he was selected to represent the U.S. Army at the United Kingdom’s “Global Effects on Defense” course where he immersed himself in the UK military and became a credentialed Strategic Planner for the Army.
He currently serves as the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment’s Operations Officer and will move this summer to Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. There he will complete the Marine Corps Command and Staff College as an exchange officer in a program the military operates that exchanges high-performing officers to attend each other’s professional education schooling.
“This helps ‘cross pollinate’ the services and shares ‘lessons learned’ across the force,” Harris explained.
Harris’ 13-year career in the Army is itself a storied journey. He graduated from Water Valley High School in 2006 and entered the United States Military Academy at West Point a month later. He graduated in 2010 with a degree in Political Science and a commission as an officer in the Infantry.
From there, Harris moved to Fort Benning, Ga., where he completed the Infantry Officer Basic Course, U.S. Army Ranger School and U.S. Army Airborne School. He deployed to Afghanistan as a Platoon Leader and Executive Officer where he earned a Bronze Star and the Combat Infantry’s Badge among other decorations.
After his deployment, Harris returned to Fort Benning and graduated from the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course and was subsequently assigned to Fort Lewis, where he commanded Charlie Company, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry (Stryker) and Delta Troop, 8th Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry (Stryker Weapons). From there he was assigned to the Old Guard.
Harris and his wife, Maggie, will celebrate their ninth anniversary Thursday. Maggie is also a captain in the U.S. Army and works at the Pentagon. They have a four month-old daughter, Hannah Harris.