John F. Kelly is President Donald Trump’s new White House chief of staff.
He is also a U.S. Marine general who has served in multiple combat operations overseas and at military installments from coast to coast. Kelly has spent more than half his life in the service and is seen as a “Beacon of Discipline” by his beloved Marines.
The feeling of appreciation and respect is certainly mutual. When speaking of the men with whom he served for more than 45 years, Kelly gets visibly emotional.
In an interview with Marines magazine, Kelly reflects on his storied military career. At one point, the four-star general’s lip quivers, his eyes get glossy, and he speaks about his men, calling them the “definition of bravery.”
According to the interview:
With tears in his eyes and a quiver of his lip, Gen. John F. Kelly said, “I never quite understood the definition of bravery until watching young men and women do things that were absolutely crazy to do because they were well trained and they had the capability to do their jobs.”
He was referring to the most memorable aspect of his time in the Corps — leading Marines in Iraq and throughout his career.
Kelly, who relinquished command of United States Southern Command Jan. 14, 2016, will soon retire after more than 45 years of service.
(You can see the moment at 0:50 in the video above.)
Kelly knows the cost of that service more than most.
Both of Kelly’s sons followed him into the service. Both followed him to war. One did not return.
According to recent reporting in Independent Journal Review:
Retired General John Kelly put his life on the line for the American people for nearly four decades in the U.S. Marine Corps.
But Kelly, now serving in the Trump administration as Homeland Security Secretary, doesn’t just know service — he also knows sacrifice of the greatest measure: in 2010, 1st Lieutenant Robert Michael Kelly, his 29-year-old son, was killed in Sangin, Afghanistan on a patrol.
Just four days later, Kelly gave a eulogy for two other Marines who were killed as they attempted to stop a suicide bomber from driving a truck into their compound.
“The two Marines had about five seconds left to live. It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were- some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.
For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers — American and Iraqi — bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have known they were safe … because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber …
The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.
Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty … into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight — for you.”
On Memorial Day, Trump laid flowers at the gravestone of Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, as his father looked on.
Certainly, this will be an emotion Kelly brings with him as he assumes one of the most powerful position in the country.