In July, 19-year-old Paul Kelly decided to follow his father’s footsteps and enlist in the U.S. Army.
Kelly’s Father, Army. Col. Paul M. Kelly served in the Virginia National Guard. His Mother, Maria Kelly served in the U.S. Air Force. Col. Kelly, was an aviation officer that commanded the National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment. In 2007, while serving overseas in Iraq, his helicopter got shot down in Baghdad. He and 11 other soldiers died from the attack.
In an exclusive interview with Red Alert Politics, the son of the fallen soldier explained why he decided to join the National Guard despite losing his dad.
“For as long as I can remember I was always wearing camo because I always wanted to be in the army,” Kelly continued, “But I knew I wanted to be just like him.”
On July 26th, Pvt. Kelly was sworn in as a soldier for the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, enlisting on his parents 20th anniversary.
“Even before he died, I had wanted to be in the army because I had seen him wear his uniform and tie up his boots every morning and go to work,” Kelly said.
Pvt. Kelly said that enlisting in the army had always been his goal, but an accomplishment that he had hoped his father would have been alive to see. Growing up Kelly would where his dad’s Army boots around the house, and dress up in camouflage anxiously waiting for the day he could wear his own Army uniform. Paul was only 9 years old when his father died in combat, leaving him behind as well as his younger brother, and mother. Now, 10 years later, the young soldier is excited to start his journey in remembrance of his father.
Pvt. Kelly said that his father friends never forgot about his dad and checked in on him and his family often. When Kelly took the oath of enlistment to the Virginia National Guard, he was sworn in by one of his fathers closest friends.
“When he died the thing that stuck out to me the most is the brotherhood, that he and his peers had, and the legacy that he left behind to other people, and it really inspired me to sign up,” Kelly said about his decision to join.
“Until I contract with ROTC, I am still deployable if for whatever reason we got sent somewhere, it’s a possibility that I could go.”
President Trump announced two weeks ago that the U.S. military would be expanding their presence in Afghanistan. Although the number of soldiers is unclear if called upon Pvt. Kelly, like his father, said he would happily serve and honor the country.
“I would go without a question,” Kelly said.
He believes that his military brothers would respond to the presidents call to action the same way.
“I think that people that are in the military sign up to do their jobs, I don’t think they’ll have trouble sending people over there as far as morale,” Kelly said.
He told Red Alert Politics that he enlisted in a similar position as his best friend, his father, in hopes to carry on his legacy and make him proud.
The young soldier currently attends Radford University where he is studying sports medicine and a part of the universities ROTC program. Offsetting cost for the family, the Freedom Alliance and other military support groups are helping the family pay for his schooling and supplies needed. Pvt. Kelly will continue his education at Radford and start his basic training in Georgia next May.
Going to school full-time and enlisting in the Virginia National Guard can be overwhelming for the second year college student, but Kelly says his dad taught him to be tough and always encouraged his son to work hard.
“I remember the first year I started playing football, right before my dad flew out to Iraq; and we were practicing, and I came back for a water break and he said, son what are you doing? You’re not supposed to be clean,” Kelly said laughing at a moment his dad gave him a hard time on the sidelines to ‘toughen him up.’