Officers promoted during farewell, receive sweet send-off

Adorned with leis made from assorted candies, 1st Lt. Jesus Rodriguez and 1st Lt. Seulata Tu were honored by Family and friends at their deployment ceremony in April. In Polynesian cultures, a lei is a sign of affection and is commonly given to decorate a person for an emotional reason -- such as a farewell, love, friendship or appreciation -- and are meant to draw attention to the recipient. Rodriguez and Tu, along with the 548th Transportation Company, left Fort Bliss, Texas Tuesday, May 17, for a year-long mission Afghanistan. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)

By Jennifer Archdekin

TRENTON - In the midst of the 548th Transportation Company's departure ceremony in April, the official send off paused to honor two Soldiers in the unit with a promotion. Seulata Tu, of Independence, and Jesus Rodriguez, of Victorville, Calif., were promoted by Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, to the rank of first lieutenant.

Both Tu and Rodriguez are close friends who went through trainings and school together, leaning on each other for support. That bond will continue during their year-long mission in Afghanistan.

After the ceremony, their Family and friends encircled the newly promoted officers, presenting them with leis made of assorted candies. Tu and Rodriguez joined hands with their many supporters and joined in prayer for the troops.

"It means we have a lot of support back here," said Rodriguez. "Everything we do, we do it as a Family. This is just a little token of their appreciation showing us they love us. With God everything is possible and we're going to be back safe and sound."

Tu explained that within her Samoan culture they strive to always put God first and Family second. Though not Samoan, Rodriguez said he grew up within the culture and draws from their Family values. Though not related, Tu said Rodriguez is still part of her Family.

"Things like this we all come together and pray because with prayers we'll be strong out there and we'll come back safely," said Tu. "He'll be by our side and we'll be strong. We'll continue with our mission and we'll be successful if you believe in the Lord."

This is the first deployment for these two Citizen-Soldiers. Directly after the ceremony, Tu and Rodriguez left with the unit for Fort Bliss, Texas to receive further training for the year-long mission. After about a month of training and receiving their final validation for the mission, the unit left the U.S.

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