Tampa, FL -- Tampa socialite Jill Kelley says she was invited to CENTCOM's Change of Command Ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base on Friday but declined to go, saying in a statement released exclusively to 10 News that she did not want to be a distraction.
General James Mattis is turning over command to General Lloyd Austin, after leading CENTCOM for more than two years.
Below is Kelley's complete statement:
"We are extremely humbled by General Mattis' gracious invitation to attend his ceremony in honor of his exemplary years of service to our nation. Today's Change of Command will be a well-deserved tribute to General Mattis' legacy, and a reflection of his incredible character and integrity.
"General Mattis is one of our country's greatest leaders, and I am proud that our men and women have been led by such an extraordinary leader, and magnificent human being.
"I wish this special day to be all about my friend General Mattis and welcoming our incoming commander, General Austin. However, with the multiple press inquiries about my attendance, I do not want to distract from this special day honoring the service of America's best and bravest. Therefore, it is with enormous regret that I will not be attending today's ceremony.
"Nonetheless, I would like to thank General Mattis for the decades of his selfless service, and congratulate General Austin as our newest commander at Central Command."