Retired Marine Corps Brig. General Frank Kelley poses for a photo walking through the streets of the neighborhood with his wife, Traci, their five children and one on the way. (Photo courtesy of Marine Corps Recruiting Command)
Three of the quadruplets born 23 years ago on Christmas Eve followed in their father’s footsteps in the Marine Corps, but the four siblings barely saw their first Christmas morning.
Kathryn, John, Kaitlyn and Paul Kelley were born together in 1998, and all but Kaitlyn are second lieutenants attending basic school in Quantico, Va., the Marine Corps said this week.
They were born after a difficult pregnancy, with some doctors advising their mother against carrying all four of them to term, according to a report.
Before they were born, their parents were stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, where they were told the clinic couldn’t handle the delivery of quadruplets, InsideNoVa.com reported in 2017. future mother Traci and then-Maj . Frank Kelley had to shop for a new doctor and a new hospital.
Some doctors refused to take Traci on as a patient, while others lacked the level IV neonatal care unit needed to handle potential complications, the news site said.
Some were willing to treat Traci, but only if the couple “reduced” the number of babies, according to the report. It was not an option for the Kelleys.
They eventually found a doctor with the right kind of facility in Abington, Pennsylvania, but he only agreed to take Traci if she followed his orders. The primary school teacher, then 36, was put on a strict diet.
Frank, then a pilot, was reassigned to Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. The couple and their one-year-old son moved in with Frank’s parents in Wayne, Pennsylvania, the website reported.
“My mother was bedridden for six months,” Second Lieutenant Kathryn Kelley, the firstborn of the quadruplets, said in the Marine Corps statement. “She got a lot of help from my grandparents and my aunts.”
The family of retired Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Frank Kelley poses for a photo during Second Lieutenant Paul Kelley’s commissioning ceremony at the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md. (Courtesy Marine Corps Recruiting Command)
Eight months into the pregnancy, on Christmas Eve, hospital staff noticed that Kaitlyn’s heart had stopped. They told Traci to call Frank, who was at mass, and tell him they would deliver in 30 minutes.
They were born in boy-girl order, with Traci naming the girls and Frank naming the boys, InsideNoVa.com reported. They quickly “dominated our entire day,” Frank said in the Marine Corps statement this week.
“It was chaotic at times,” Kathryn said.
The family lived through stints in Pennsylvania and Florida, but the Kelley children mostly grew up at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
“I remember we were driving up I-95 from Florida at night and Kathryn woke up and saw the Marine Corps Museum,” Frank told InsideNoVa.com. “She said, ‘Look dad, we’re home.’ I will remember this day until I die.
Their father rose through the ranks to become a brigadier general, then became the Navy’s first deputy assistant secretary for unmanned systems in 2015, after more than 30 years in the Corps. He is now Vice President of Defense Acquisition University.
Growing up around the Marines made John want to join them, he said, but he didn’t understand his father’s career at the time.
“Now I take his stories seriously, giving me insight into what I can expect as I progress through the ranks,” he said.
Four summers ago, quadruplets made up more than a tenth of Quantico High School’s 38-member class of 2017, InsideNoVa.com reported.
Kathryn and John went to the US Merchant Marine Academy, while Paul attended the US Naval Academy.
Kaitlyn attends James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where she studies Sports and Recreation Management. Their younger brother, Patrick, born in 2000, is a senior at the Naval Academy and has signed a contract to become a pilot in the Marines, like his father, the service said. And his older brother Joe started a career in the civilian world.
The Kelleys still try to get together every Sunday night before practice week begins, the service said.
They plan to spend Christmas together, like most years since 1998.