By DAVID LOPEZ
Ten months aboard a navy ship is no easy task.
For U.S. Navy Nuclear Chief Petty Officer and San Benito native Mark Anthony Rodriguez, lack of communication with his loved ones was the most difficult to bear, so it was through the element of surprise that he decided to express his love for his daughters.
Last week, Rodriguez surprised his two daughters, Chloe, 10, and Lylith, 12, during a regular school day at Port Isabel’s elementary and junior high schools.
“When I got to Chloe’s school first, she looked at me in complete and utter shock,” recalled Rodriguez. “At first she saw me as if to say ‘it looks like him’, but then she realized it was me and she jumped out of her chair. We took a second there hugging.”
Rodriguez admits he could not hold back his tears and felt incredible being reunited. But it was not over: from Garriga Elementary, Rodriguez and Chloe left to the junior high to surprise Lylith, where word had gotten around of Mark’s visit so much that he was greeted by an assembly in the band hall.
“They gathered everybody at the band hall and introduced me to the class saying, ‘Please welcome our guest. He hasn’t seen his daughter in 10 months,’ and right then Lylith knew it was me and I came out when she rushed over to bear hug me,” Rodriguez said.
“I was unsuccessful in not crying,” he laughed. “Afterward, we went to have lunch, and we just enjoyed our day.”
Mark Rodriguez was onboard the aircraft carrier named USS Abraham Lincoln for the past 10 months, which he said was its longest deployment since the Cold War.
Rodriguez joined the navy on April 7, 2009 and was ascended to Chief Petty Officer within eight years. On average, it takes 13 to 14 years to make chief, which only reflects Rodriguez’s admirable work ethic and leadership skills.
Rodriguez attended San Benito High School in his first three years and graduated from Port Isabel High in 2007.
Rodgriguez is home until February 9, when he must report back for duty on Feb. 13.
“Every time I’ve had a reunion it’s been a tearful reunion,” Rodriguez said. “Whether seeing my son and daughter at the airport or seeing my kids at school, it’s been a memorable reunion every time.”
Editor’s note: This article has been edited for length. To read the full story, click here or make sure to grab a copy of the Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2020 issue of the NEWS.