In 2008, he went to work for the State of Texas as a fire consultant.
All the while, his commitment as a military reservist entailed “one weekend a month, or two weeks a year,” he said.
His final assignment came as a total surprise, Kelley admitted.
“I'll never forget – we were sitting at home and the phone rang … and (the caller from his drill center in Waco) said, 'You're on the mobe-list. You've been recalled.' I asked where, and he said, 'I don't know. We just have to notify you and send a message that you've been notified.' When? 'We don't know,'” he recalled being told. “So you can imagine how my wife felt.'
“I'm 60 years old … she was telling me I was too old to go to Iraq, so you can imagine (the response) almost 10 years later I was sent to Afghanistan,” he said.
The Navy gave him six months to wrap up things at home before he was deployed Nov. 20 of last year. Kelley was able to come home on leave in July, in time to celebrate their son's and daughter's birthdays, along with his own before returning to the Middle East.
The hardest part of being away – aside from being apart from his beloved family – has been dealing with the impact of time.
“They say that time never stops, but it's time that you lose when you get back” from deployment,” he observed. “So what happens is when you start thinking about things, and saying, 'Do you remember last summer, when we …' and (get told), 'you weren't here last summer' – and you realize that it was the year before. It's like a time lapse.”
Then there's the coming home to the changes that are permanent … like losing friends.