Missouri couple deploys together

Sgt. Tracina Harrison and Staff Sgt. Ronell Harrison prepare to conduct combat lanes training for mobilization to Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Kerri Brantley).

Sgt. Tracina Harrison and Staff Sgt. Ronell Harrison prepare to conduct combat lanes training for mobilization to Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Kerri Brantley).

1st Lt. Kerri Brantley
35th Combat Aviation Brigade

FORT HOOD, Texas -- One of the toughest challenges for military marriages is the glaring truth that deployments create separation.

However, that is not the case for two Missouri National Guard Soldiers, Staff Sgt. Ronell Harrison, a 12-year Veteran serving as a flight operations specialist, and Sgt. Tracina Harrison, a 10-year Veteran serving as a human resource specialist for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th Combat Aviation Brigade heading to Kuwait.

The Jefferson City, Mo., couple met at Fort Carson, Colo., during a brigade-wide annual training, June 2004. They quickly became friends while hanging out with the same group of comrades.

September 2005 through December 2006, the pair endured their first deployment together with the 3/135th Theater Aviation Battalion to Balad, Iraq. During that deployment the couple realized there was more than a friendship evolving.

"Ronell, asked me to be his lady, in October 2005," said Tracina. Their love grew for one another, but when they returned from Iraq, she went home to Holt's Summit, Mo., and he went back to Warrensburg, Mo. "By June 2007, he couldn't stand being apart from me, so he moved to Holt's Summit," she said.

"We wanted to make sure that our love was real, and not just a conditional-environment thing, so we both went back to our hometowns after the deployment," said Ronell. "We visited each other every weekend. I accepted a job in Jefferson City in the J3 as a training noncommissioned officer, so I could move to be closer to her." The couple understood their love for one another was the real deal and married Dec. 19, 2008.

Although they do not have to endure a separation from one another, they did leave three children back home - ages 14, 7, and 3.

"The biggest challenge is being away from our kids," said Tracina. They are primarily under the care of Nana [her mother] along with the support of Nae-Nae [his mother].

"The older kids understand how long mom and dad will be gone, but the baby is excited about spending time with Nana and Nae-Nae," said Ronell. "The youngest doesn't understand, our middle-child is having a hard time adjusting, and our oldest has been through this before and is having a hard time expressing feelings about the separation."

The commander of the 35th CAB, Col. Mark McLemore consequently was also the commander of the couple's first deployment.

"On the first deployment, if he [Ronell] was the shift sergeant, he took charge; his quiet-professional manner earned him respect of all ranks in the unit," said McLemore. "She [Tracina] did very well, she worked hard and did a good job. I only expect professionalism and good mentorship from them again this time around."

The couple is looking forward to spending a lot of time together, since they work in two locations back home. Tracina works in Jefferson City at State Headquarters and Ronell at the Sedalia Armory. After the deployment they plan on going back to the same positions and catching up on missed time with their children. The couple is proud of the strength of their children, proud to serve, and proud to represent the Missouri Army National Guard.

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