Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Lynne Lantin
21st Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — During wartime, receiving your first combat patch is a significant, time-honored tradition for a Soldier, but not more so than for Spc. Francisco Rodriguez, an information technology specialist with the 580th Signal Company located in Schweinfurt, Germany.
Rodriguez received his first combat patch during a ceremony on Bagram Airfield March 26 from his father, Command Sgt. Maj. Ismael Rodriguez, the command sergeant major of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s 16th Sustainment Brigade and currently deployed as the command sergeant major of Deputy Command Support Operations, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan in Kabul.
“There’s a great significance in the combat patch,” said Rodriguez before presenting the patch to his son. “This is a memento of a brotherhood and a sisterhood that you will find nowhere else. Those bonds that we form in a time of war are unbreakable. The combat patch is more than putting a piece of cloth on your right side. It’s much, much more than that and I’m just very happy and honored to do this to my own blood.”
For Rodriguez, presenting his son with the combat patch was something he hoped to do since his arrival in Afghanistan, he said.
“When we first came out here, I had already determined that I wanted that honor,” said Rodriguez, who arrived in Afghanistan one month after his son. “I talked to his chain of command and requested that they grant me the honor of patching my own son. To get a picture that I can save for posterity where I’m patching my son, putting his very first combat patch on, that was pretty special.”
Although Francisco does not plan to continue with the military beyond his current enlistment, he said it has been one of the best things to happen to him and has guided him on a new path in life. His father agrees.
“He wants to get out, go study and go another route. I don’t have a problem with it,” said Rodriguez, who has served in the U.S. Army for more than 29 years. “The military has been thoroughly beneficial to him on every level, from development to schooling. He’s also started college because of the military and tuition assistance.
He’s improved in every way imaginable. He’s going to continue in college studying his current military occupational specialty in information technology.”
Rodriguez said he is proud of his son regardless of which path he chooses.
“As a father I’m proud that he’s the human being that he is. That’s my biggest thing,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a very loving, caring and family-oriented son. He’s a great human being and everybody that he touches loves him because of how he is: noble, down to earth, unassuming. I’m very proud of him.”