Morgan Kelly (left) and her brother John Forrest Kelly change the epaulets on the uniform of their father, Major General Trent Kelly to reflect his promotion from Brigadier General to Major General during a ceremony held Saturday at the Mississippi National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in Jackson.

The Mississippi National Guard on Saturday promoted U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly to the rank of major general and designated him as the assistant adjutant general of the Mississippi Army National Guard, making him the highest ranking military official currently serving in Congress.

Kelly, a Republican from Saltillo who represents Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and formerly served as a district attorney in Northeast Mississippi, has more than 35 years of military experience.

“Trent Kelly is no stranger to service,” Gov. Tate Reeves said at the ceremony. “It’s been his life. That’s right, his life has been about service to others.”

A native of Union County, Kelly enlisted in the National Guard at the age of 19 in 1985. He mobilized for Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and deployed to Iraq in 2005 and 2009.

While seeming to hold back tears at times, Kelly thanked his family for their support during his military service and said, even though his career in public life is important to him, he would never have run for Congress if he could not serve simultaneously in the National Guard.

“This means more to me,” Kelly said of his military service. “Serving this great state, serving this great nation in uniform means more to me than what I can do as a civilian.”

The third-term congressman has now reached the same military rank as G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery, who represented Mississippi in the House from 1967 to 1997 and retired from the National Guard in 1980 with the rank of major general.

Kelly said he did not know Montgomery well, but he has long viewed him as one of his role models because of his simultaneous service to the National Guard and public life.

Saturday’s promotion ceremony marks the second time Kelly has received a promotion while serving in the House. In 2018, Kelly was promoted to the rank of brigadier general.

“In honor of you, congratulations,” said Maj. Gen. Janson Boyles, the adjutant general of the Mississippi National Guard. “And from all of us who wear the uniform with you, we are so honored to be here for this moment in your career.”

Kelly’s educational background includes an associate’s degree from East Central Community College, a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from the University of Mississippi, and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.

Kelly’s family includes his wife of 30 years, Sheila Kelly, and children John Forrest, Morgan and Jackson.

Following the death of former U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, Kelly won the 1st Congressional District seat in a 2015 special election and has served in Congress since. This past November, he was re-elected to the first congressional seat. He will be sworn into office in January to serve his fourth term in the House, where he is expected to sit on the armed service, agriculture and small business committees.

Editor’s note: This article was reported by Taylor Vance, a staff reporter at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo.

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