A week of White House intrigue came to a close today when President Donald Trump named John F. Kelly as his new chief of staff, replacing Reince Priebus a day after he resigned from the post. Kelly joins the White House team after serving as the head of the Department of Homeland Security since Trump’s inauguration in January. Here are five things you may not know about the new chief of staff.
1. He Hitchhiked Across The Country As A Teenager
Born into an Irish Catholic family in 1950 and raised in the Boston neighborhood of Brighton, Kelly displayed a thirst for adventure from an early age. His early teenage years were a time of wanderlust, exemplified by a 3,000-mile hitchhiking trip to Seattle and another 3,000-mile trip train hopping back in a boxcar to Chicago. Though he’s never made it clear as to his reasoning for the trip, driving across the country himself was out of the question, as he made the coast-to-coast treks before he turned 16.
2. He Delivered Beer While In The Merchant Marines
Though he made the Marine Corps his home later in life, Kelly served his country for a year in the Merchant Marines. The conflict in Southeast Asia was intensifying at the time, and Kelly aided the war effort in a small, but likely much appreciated way – by delivering 10,000 tons of beer to American forces in Vietnam.
3. He Was A Marine Infantryman In Vietnam
The war in Vietnam reached a fever pitch by 1970, and, as he was assigned a low draft number, the odds of him participating in it were high. Rather than waiting for his number to come up, Kelly joined the Marines in 1970.
“In the America I grew up in, every male was a veteran; my dad, my uncles and all the people on the block,” he said many years later. “So, with that kind of background and the draft, you assumed you were going to go into the service when your time came.”
Kelly served as an infantryman with the 2nd Marine Division and was discharged in 1972 after attaining the rank of sergeant. He returned to the corps three years later as an officer after graduating from Officer Candidates School.
4. His Son Was Killed In Afghanistan
Kelly is the father of two sons, both of whom followed him into the Marine Corps as officers. He also has the sad distinction of being the highest ranking officer to lose a child in the global war on terror, as his son, Robert, was killed in 2010 when he stepped on a land mine while serving with the 5th Marines in Sangin, Afghanistan. Robert was on his third combat tour at the time, his first after obtaining his commission as an infantry officer.
5. He Facilitated The Prisoner Transfer For Bowe Bergdahl
While serving as commander of U.S. Southern Command, Kelly facilitated the exchange of five detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp for U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl in 2014. Admitting that the transfer was “unusual,” the exchange was executed in the presence of reporters and families of victims of the September 11 attacks, who were at Guantanamo Bay to watch legal commissions. The exchange later came under fire from Congress, though Kelly told reporters at the time that the decision to make the trade was one of policy and did not involve him.
[Featured Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]