Lt. General says marine son’s death went largely unnoticed to nation

Laura Donovan Contributor
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Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly’s Marine son, Robert M. Kelly died instantly when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan in November of last year. Though John Kelly didn’t once mention his son’s name while delivering a speech about military sacrifices later that month, he told ballroom attendees that military deaths often go unnoticed by the general public.

Kelly, the most senior U.S. military officer to lose a son or daughter in Iraq or Afghanistan, has taken great measures to dodge the press since his son’s passing. Before delivering that address, Kelly instructed the Marine Corps officer introducing him, “Please don’t mention my son.”

Though this tragedy took place months ago, the Washington Post rehashed the story Wednesday with a fresh take on the dire under-reporting of military casualties.

“We are only one of 5,500 American families who have suffered the loss of a child in this war,” Kelly wrote in an email. “The death of my boy simply cannot be made to seem any more tragic than the others.”

During his November ballroom speech, Kelly told former Marines and local business people in the audience, “Their struggle [military men and women’s] is your struggle…If anyone thinks you can somehow thank them for their service, and not support the cause for which they fight – our country – these people are lying to themselves. . . . More important, they are slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to this nation.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced Tuesday that he’d nominated Kelly to be his senior military assistant, a prestigious position due to its proximity to the Pentagon chief.