Childhood & Early Life
John Francis Kelly was born on May 11, 1950, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., to Josephine and John Kelly. His was a middle-class Catholic Christian family. His father was of Irish descent, while his mother was Italian. His father worked at a postal office in Brighton. John grew up in Brighton and studied at a local school.
John was an adventure-seeker and was never quite interested in academics. In his teenage years, before he even graduated high school, he once hitchhiked to Washington, D.C. and returned via freight trains.
He also grew up with an interest to join the army. When he turned 16, he joined the ‘United States Merchant Marines.’ Back then, the Vietnam War had begun. He later quipped that the first assignment he got required him to take 10,000 tonnes of beer to the American troops fighting in Vietnam.
In 1970, his dream of joining the American forces came true when he was drafted into the ‘2nd Marine Division’ of the ‘U.S. Marine Corps.’ However, by then, he had begun his college education. In 1972, he was discharged and put into the inactive reserves so that he could complete his education.
In 1975, the year when the Vietnam War ended, John rejoined the forces. Toward the end of the year, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. The next year, he completed his bachelor’s degree from the ‘University of Massachusetts,’ Boston.
In the early 1980s, he obtained an MA degree from the ‘Georgetown School of Foreign Services.’ In the mid-1990s, he earned an MS degree in strategic studies from the ‘National Defense University,’ located in Washington, D.C.
Through the 1980s, John quickly rose through the ranks in the ‘Marines.’ In 1980, he moved to ‘Fort Benning,’ Georgia, and joined ‘U.S. Army’s ‘Infantry Officer Advanced Course.’ Following his graduation, he was appointed as an assignment monitor at the ‘Headquarters Marine Corps’ in Washington, D.C. He began his tenure in 1981 and worked there for 4 years.
He returned to the ‘2nd Marine Division’ in 1984 and served them as the commander of a rifle company. He was later promoted to the rank of major and began serving as a battalion operations officer in the ‘Marines.’
He was then posted in Quantico for a few years, where he worked at the ‘Basic School’ at different ranks. He was then selected as a lieutenant colonel and transferred to ‘Camp Pendleton,’ California, as the commanding officer of the ‘1st Marine Division.’ While there, he also supported the local police in curbing the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
John served as a commander for 2 years, before moving to Washington, D.C. in 1994, where he attended the ‘National War College’ for a year. Following the completion of the program, he was promoted to the position of colonel.
In 2002, he was made the assistant division commander in the ‘1st Marine Division.’ While in that position, he served in Iraq for 2 years. He was later promoted to the rank of brigadier general. It was the first major promotion in U.S. history that took place in an active combat zone.
In April 2003, he was assigned to command ‘Task Force Tripoli.’ In January 2007, he was nominated to be promoted to the rank of major general. His promotion was confirmed by the senate in September 2007.
He was again sent to Iraq to command forces there. He returned to the U.S. in February 2009. In March 2011, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general. He was also hired as the senior military assistant to the secretary of defense in the Obama administration.
In January 2012, he was nominated for the rank of general, which was confirmed by the senate in July 2012.
In 2016, the newly elected president of the United States, Donald Trump, nominated John to be the head of the ‘Department of Homeland Security.’ It is believed that John’s expertise in issues related the southwest border was instrumental in him getting appointed for the cabinet-level position.
Since the beginning of his tenure in January 2017, in harmony with President Trump’s policies, John was strict with the issue of illegal immigration and called for a change in laws. Within a few days of joining the office, he claimed that the wall on the U.S.–Mexico border would be completed within the next 2 years. However, the actual construction of the wall turned out to be much slower than anticipated.
By the end of his tenure, it had gained the reputation of being the strictest tenure in the past few decades. He oversaw the banning of immigrants from most Muslim-majority countries and deported many undocumented immigrants. John did not clash with Trump and worked harmoniously with him. His tenure ended in July 2017.
In July 2017, he was appointed as the ‘White House’ chief of staff. Thus, a power struggle erupted in the ‘White House.’ John removed several key people from their positions. This was expected, as many major media publications had assumed that he would bring a sense of discipline to the ‘White House,’ owing to his long past as a marine.
However, by February 2018, trouble had started brewing and John was reportedly asked to resign. It is also believed that while President Trump initially admired him, the two were not on talking terms for the latter part of John’s tenure. It was also reported that Trump had made several major decisions in John’s absence. He had been a controversial man. Thus, his tenure was cut short in December 2018, when the news of his replacement was made public.
He has also served on the board of advisors of an investment firm named ‘DC Capital Partners.’ He later served on the board of directors of ‘Caliburn International.’