Karen Hernest is the proud and long time wife of former U.S. General turned Secretary of homeland security, John Kelly who could also become Trump’s chief of staff.
Karen’s husband is four-star Marine who retired from the Marine Corps in 2016 after a 45-year career and with the distinction of being the military’s longest-serving general. Earlier this year he was picked by president Trump as his new Homeland Security chief.
The 66-year-old Boston native was the Commander of the U.S. Southern Command under President Barack Obama from November 2012 to January 2016.
Kelly first joined the Marine Corps in 1970 and served in the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War. Kelly is notable as the highest-ranking member of the military to lose a child in the military during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Through his 45-year-career as a Marine, he’s had the loyal support of his wife, Karen Hernest. Meet her below.
1. She is a NJ native
Karen Kelly grew up in New Jersey, daughter of a NJ policeman who served as a Marine during WWII in the 4th Marine Division.
2. The couple has been married for over two decades.
She married General John Kelly in October of 1976. Kelly Hernest and john Kelly went onto become parents of three children. She gave birth to sons John Kelly, Robert Kelly and daughter, Kathleen Kelly.
3. She has been a dedicated military spouse
Kelly served in a variety of assignments across the United States, the District of Columbia, and overseas. She focused on providing support to military families, wounded service-members, and the families of those killed in action.
She has been active in the Marine Corps Family Readiness Program since its inception. While her husband led Marine Forces Reserve Mrs. Kelly played a key role in extending support to reserve families.
4. One of her sons was killed in action.
The couple’s second son, Robert Michael Kelly, was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010. Kelly’s son was 29 years old. Kelly’s eldest son, John Kelly, also serves in the Marines. Her daughter works with the American Red Cross.
In those raw early moments of her grief, Karen Kelly started working with the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, and later joined the board of directors. Although she was terrified of public speaking, the Gold Star mother found her voice as an advocate for Marine families and helped raise nearly $1.3 million for a scholarship in her son’s name.
7. She was the one who told her husband to take the job as secretary of homeland security.
After her husband received a call from Reince Priebus, he said to her he thought the Trump administration was about to offer him a job.
Karen said “‘take it, your whole life, our whole life, the Kelly family is a life of service.’”