Operation Tribute to Freedom

OTF Soldier Story for April 27, 2009 - Lt. Col. Maria Kelly

Lieutenant Colonel Maria Kelly

Current Unit: HHC, 371st Sustainment Brigade
Current Position: Rear Detachment Commander
Component: Ohio National Guard
Current Location: Kettering, Ohio
Hometown: West Jefferson, Ohio
Years of Service: 26

Throughout her time in the Army, Lt. Col. Maria Kelly has earned numerous titles and awards for her service. Yet the title for which she has worked hardest and is most proud of is 'Mom.' Multiple deployments and the many activities of her six-person family have kept her jumping, but Kelly has learned to juggle the competing responsibilities of Soldier and mother. Even though her deployments may take her away from her family physically, she believes that parenting does not end just because there is distance between them. Kelly and her husband, Lt. Col. David Kelly, are an Army Strong Family who instill strong values and boundaries with their children at all times. Kelly believes her Army career has made her a better person, leader, and most of all, parent.

When Kelly returned to her civilian life after her first deployment to Kuwait in 2004, she had to adapt to a household that had drastically changed. While she was deployed, Kelly and her husband were granted custody of their two young nephews. As a family of six, the Kelly's made sure to keep the communication lines open and discussed the changes the family was going through.

Leading up to her second deployment in the summer of 2006, Kelly threw a four-way birthday for her children. She wanted to make sure that she celebrated and participated in the small moments of their lives, even when she was thousands of miles of way. To keep in touch with her family, she called home once a week and e-mailed frequently.

Being a parent gives Kelly an understanding of what her Soldiers were going through with their own families. During both deployments, Kelly said her family gave her the support she needed to focus exclusive on the missions at hand.

For her service, Kelly was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service twice. Her first was for her work as a plans officer during her deployment to Kuwait in 2004. She then received the Bronze Star Medal with First Oak Leaf Cluster, for her service as the Commander of Forward Operating Base Marez and Diamondback in Iraq from 2006-2007.

Kelly is currently serving as the Rear Detachment Commander for the 371st Sustainment Brigade. Now back home, she is preparing to care for her children - Sarah (16), David (15), Matthew (8) and Xavier (7) - during her husband's upcoming deployment with the Ohio National Guard.

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