Tyson Mele was promoted to a lieutenant colonel in the US Army during a ceremony at the Tribute to Veterans Memorial in Warrenton, Missouri.
The Tribute to Veterans Memorial in Warrenton served as the backdrop for an important ceremony the morning of Oct. 7.
It was then that U.S. Army Major Tyson Mele replaced his golden oak leaf with a black one on his camouflage uniform, indicating he’d just been promoted to lieutenant colonel.
It was a big moment for him.
It was a bigger moment for Vietnam Veteran Richie King, of Warrenton, who made Mele’s promotion official, velcroing the new lieutenant colonel insignia on his uniform.
“I put them all on him,” King said. “I’ve got a frame up in my house and it’s got all his ranks on it. So when he gets done, I’ll make sure he gets that.”
There’s a special bond between Mele and King – and it stems from Mele’s father.
“His father and I were in Germany together for over 50 years,” King said.
And that’s why Mele, of St. Louis but who works in Washington, D.C. as the director of human resources for the District of Columbia National Guard, made the trek to Warrenton for the special ceremony.
“It was important to me for Richie to be here at the promotion ceremony,” he said. “He’s been at every one and he’s unfortunately ailing in his health and can’t travel much.”
It was also important to the new lieutenant colonel that the ceremony be at the memorial to veterans that’s visible to anyone driving east on Interstate 70.
“I’ve always admired it from off the highway,” Mele said. “I was here the first year it was originally opened and it really reminds me of Richie and my dad and their service to the country and so many generations of service to the country. I thought there really is no better place.”
Mele has served for 21 years, and never expected to reach the rank.
“I just saw an opportunity after 9/11,” he said. “I served my country, joined shortly after and thought ‘you know, I’ll do one term and get out and just have served my time,’” he said. “But 21 years later, I’m here to tell about it, and it’s been a great run.”
Now as a lieutenant colonel, Mele is eligible to serve as a battalion commander.
“You’re just in charge and take care of more soldiers,” Joseph Caldwell said. Caldwell read the order officially giving Mele the promotion.
“Attention to orders. The president of the United States has reposed special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities of Major Tyson Vernon Mele. In view of these qualities and his demonstrative potential for increased responsibility, he is therefore promoted in the United States Army to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Effective date 25 August 2023, signed Daniel R. Hokanson, general, United States Army, Chief National Guard Bureau.”
Caldwell, who was also just promoted to lieutenant colonel, was happy to be there for his friend of almost 20 years.
“That’s the cool thing about the Army is you meet lifelong friends and you share a special kind of bond,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell, who works for the Missouri National Guard and is based in Lebanon, said it was an honor to be at the ceremony.
“He asked me to be here today. I had my promotion yesterday (Oct. 6) and he was there for that. I know this is a big deal so he can do it with his dad’s best friend and his stepmother. And it was a beautiful, beautiful setting.”
For Mele, who has done two tours in the Middle East, the day was just another in what he called “a very rewarding career.”
“I’ll tell any young person that’s considering service in the military, it’s been a great career,” he said. “If you’re healthy and able, and you want to serve your country in a unique way, the national guard specifically is a great opportunity to do that.”