John Kelly’s Wife Karen Hernest

Karen Hernest


Karen Hernest is the long time wife of former U.S. General turned Secretary of homeland security, John Kelly. The couple has been married for over two decades.

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.

Kelly, who oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol, has been one of the targets of criticism for the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies.

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.

Karen Hernest was raised by a policeman father who served as a Marine during WWII. The New Jersey gal has been a military spouse in all the extent of the word. Karen Hernest and her husband were married in 1976.


While her husband was on assignment, 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.

Since the early 2000’s Karen Kelly has worked tirelessly to advocate for wounded service members and their families. She also sits on the board of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation.


The two went onto become parents of three children. She gave birth to sons John Kelly, Robert Kelly and daughter, Kathleen Kelly.

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.


Following the tragic death of her son, Karen Hernest established a scholarship in her son’s memory through the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation.

The heartbroken mother said during an interview in 2011 ““I decided on the day I found out … that I would do something to make my son proud”