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Sergeant (Ret’d) Marion Kelly

Born in Welland, Ontario in 1962, Sergeant (Ret’d) Marion Kelly dreamed of representing Canada on the international stage as a young athlete. As a competitive swimmer, Kelly had a goal of one day competing in the Olympics.

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Marion Kelly

At the age of 17, Kelly enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces, where she was provided an opportunity to represent Canada in a different way. Her mother encouraged her to enlist, as she thought the military was something Kelly would excel at. “Being a professional athlete, you get to wear a maple leaf on your back. So if I couldn’t get through, maybe the military was the right choice.”

She began her career as a supply technician in 1980 at the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) in North Bay, Ontario before moving to CFB Trenton. She originally served with the Logistics Branch, but later joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. During her 20 years of service, Kelly was stationed in Lahr, Germany during the Gulf War and was deployed to the Golan Heights for Operation Desert Storm, where she was part of the European supply chain. In Germany, Kelly set up a mobile air support section, which supported aircraft going in and out of Lahr. Recognizing the importance of volunteer work, Kelly volunteered at every base she was posted to. For her service, Marion Kelly was awarded the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal (CPSM) and the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal. As well, she received Master Corporal of the year in Trenton. On 13 October 2000, Kelly retired from the CAF.

Kelly’s career brought her around the world, but her most memorable highlight was being president of a volunteer committee. The committee worked with a Catholic girls’ orphanage in Jerusalem and helped with the construction of a road, yard work around the orphanage and made necessary repairs to the building. Under Kelly’s direction, they hosted fundraisers in camp, which led to the committee donating money, food and clothes. For her exceptional contributions, Kelly received a United Nations Commendation Award for volunteer efforts.

“The opportunity to make it to the Games was surprising.”

Kelly now resides in St. Catharines, Ontario, where she continues her service and volunteerism by being involved with Veterans organizations. She is a current member of Legion Branch 350 and a member of the Old Salts and Veterans group. The Old Salts and Veterans group organizes meetings on the first Wednesday of each month to talk, reminisce and laugh over lunch. Kelly was the first Air Force member to join the Old Salts and Veterans group. She also uses online Veterans groups to connect with other Veterans, including friends from as far back as basic training.

In 2017, a friend of Kelly’s suggested the Soldier On program. Once Kelly discovered swimming was an event at the Warrior Games, she quickly applied. “The opportunity to make it to the Games was surprising.”

“The camaraderie is automatic when it comes to the military, no matter what we have each other’s back.”

At the Warrior Games in Tampa Bay, Kelly admits to having a few difficult days adjusting to being back in a military setting after nearly 20 years away from it. Everyone on Team Canada was welcoming and consistently checked on each other, which Kelly had not experienced since leaving the Canadian Armed Forces. “The camaraderie is automatic when it comes to the military, no matter what we have each other’s back.”

No matter which country you were from the camaraderie among all national teams competing at the games also became clear quickly to Kelly . Despite being opponents, a Veteran from the United States of America’s team was very helpful to Kelly with her sitting volleyball skills.

Kelly took home gold medals for her performance in the pool. But, “The gold medals I received were just gravy,” she said. Her experience at the Warrior Games has helped her get back in the pool and active in the community. Kelly hopes to empower other Veterans of any age to apply to the Warrior Games and compete for Team Canada.

Since her time at the Warrior Games, Kelly is enrolled in a seminar in Toronto to become a public speaker, with hopes of inspiring and helping others. She looks forward to soon speaking to seniors groups and schools in the area.

Sergeant (Ret’d) Marion Kelly is one of our Faces of Freedom. From November 5-11—Veterans’ Week—we honour those who served Canada, past and present, in times of war, military conflict and peace.

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