Four Siblings Continue Marine Corps Family Tradition
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jennifer Sanchez
December 29, 2021
With a one-year-old at home, an expectant mother is ready to give birth to quadruplets with 40 Medical staff - 10 per child - surrounding her to witness this rare, yet joyous occasion on Christmas Eve in 1998.
The family of Retired Marine Corps Brigadier Gen. Frank Kelley walking through the neighborhood streets with their five children and one on the way in 1999. They had their challenges associated with the sudden increase in size and military demands but overcame all obstacles together as a family.
Traci Kelley had been carrying the four children for eight months one can only imagine how challenging things could become in such a short amount of time. All pregnancies come with some level of risk, but pregnancy with quadruplets creates more severity. She would bring all four children into the world after completing arduous labor. Once the children were delivered by the robust staff, they were scurried off and away from both parents for the next few hours.
“My mom was on bed rest for six months,” said 2nd Lt. Kathryn Marie Kelley, the firstborn of the quadruplets. “She didn’t expect four children, but she received a lot of help from my grandparents and my aunts.”
For Traci, life was far from normal. Not only did she have the challenges associated with the sudden increase in family size, but she was also balancing the demands of being a military spouse. Retired Marine Corps Brigadier Gen. Frank Kelley, a Marine Major serving at Marine Aircraft Group 49 in Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, Pa., at the time of their birth, began his career in the Corps in 1984 and became a pilot.
“There was no such thing as balancing, they dominated our entire day, but the leadership at MAG49 were outstanding. They wanted to make sure I didn’t mess this up,” said Frank. “I realized my priority was getting this very young family on the right path.”
The eldest brother, Joseph Kelley, the quadruplets, and their youngest brother, Patrick Kelley, are all one year apart. They never had their room, shared friend groups, classes, and had the occasional sibling fights. The siblings spent most of their childhood at Marine Corps Base Quantico, and it is where their father would eventually retire.
"It was chaotic at times," said Kathryn. "You always had something going on in the house since we were all pretty close in age.”
When the quads were in middle school, their father was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in the year 2010. Their mother, a school teacher and raised their six now teenage children and assumed the responsibilities of being the wife of a flag officer. She took courses with her husband on how to present their family in a public setting and host social events. As a result, the children had the opportunity to attend these events, where their father was speaking and they listened. Even then, the idea to serve as a Marine began to take root in their young hearts.
"Back in high school, I didn't understand his career since I wasn't in myself," said 2nd Lt. John Kelley, the second born of the quads. "Now I take his stories seriously, giving me insight into what I can expect as I go through the ranks, drawing from his experiences so I can make decisions of my own."
As the siblings grew up at the “Crossroads of the Corps,” they would see Marines practicing martial arts techniques and completing the fitness tests on the football field before John had football practice.
"Growing up around the Marine Corps made me want to join," said John. "We just did a CFT, and I was thinking about the Marines on the football field, and it made me laugh a little bit."
December 22, 2021 - The family of retired Marine Corps Brigadier Gen. Frank Kelley poses for a picture at 2nd Lt. Paul Kelley's commissioning ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. They had their challenges associated with the sudden increase in size and military demands but overcame all obstacles together as a family. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from courtesy photo by Frank Kelley family)
Kathryn has recently graduated from the United Merchants Marine Academy, Nassau County, NY, and started her six-month journey at The Basic School assigned to Bravo Company. Just like at her birth, she is not alone, her fellow quadruplet brothers 2nd Lt. Paul Kelley, of Fox Company, and John Kelley, a platoon leader for 5th Platoon, Alpha Company, are traversing their journey as commissioned officers in the Marine Corps. Patrick Kelley, the youngest sibling, is currently attending the Naval Academy as a senior and has signed a contract to become a pilot in the Marine Corps – just like their father.
“The best part is being able to share and talk about our experiences while going through it with my brother and sister,” said John. “I see my sister a lot more since she isn’t married. We’ll go grab food together if one of us had a late day and couldn’t make it to chow during the week.”
Now back at Quantico as Marines attending TBS, they will train in the field. The siblings will learn the combat arts and continue to sharpen their leadership skills to prepare them for the duties of a company-grade officer in the operating forces. They will gain a better understanding of their responsibilities and learn the warfighting skills required of a rifle platoon commander.
"My dad’s stories about TBS resonate more now since I'm here," said John. "Being exposed to leadership on that level and seeing him interact with all his Marines in his command is something I take with me today."
Every Sunday evening, the Kelley family tries to meet up for dinner before setting out for the week of training at TBS. The family plans to share this year’s holiday season much like they did on that Christmas in 1998. Upon completion of school, they will receive their occupational specialties and set off to continue the rest of their adventure in the Corps as a family full of Marines.
"It's going to be fun since my siblings are also in the military," said Kathryn." I know we are going to cross paths in the future for years to come."
While Kathryn, John, Paul, and Patrick followed in the footsteps of their father, the oldest, Joe Kelley recently received a job opportunity after graduating from James Madison University at Harrisonburg, Va. Caitlin Kelley, the third born of the quad squad, is currently attending JMU and looking at a career in sports and recreation.
“I’m very proud of what they are doing and how they are facing the challenges, they are receiving a realistic perspective on what life in the Marine Corps is like and what is expected of them,” said Frank. “I’m proud of all my kids for getting themselves into good positions and super delighted that they were able to make their own decisions in life.”
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