AL ASAD, Iraq -- For many Marines, the Corps becomes a surrogate family as soon as young recruits step on the yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depots. But, for Lance Cpl. Shannon M. Flaherty, a Sewell, N.J., native, joining the Marine Corps was just another page out of her family’s history book.
Flaherty, a 23-year-old, CH-53 avionics technician with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 466, is a third-generation Marine. Fate, chance or a combination of both recently brought Flaherty and her father Chief Warrant Officer 3 James M. Flaherty together for a few days in an unlikely spot for a reunion, Al Asad, Iraq.
“It’s been kind of weird,” James said. “You never imagine that one day you’re going to be with your daughter in a combat zone. It’s a strange reunion, but I’m glad to see her.”
Shannon deployed to Al Asad with the Wolfpack of HMH-466, based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., during September. James deployed to Fallujah in April. The 52-year-old infantry and engineer veteran works for II Marine Expeditionary Force’s command element, traveling to sites across Iraq to assist in base planning.
The Marines’ reunion put them at the opposite ends of a family career in the Corps. Shannon is on her first deployment with the Wolfpack while her father was reactivated from retirement during March, after 26 years of service.
“The deployment has been an experience,” Shannon said. “Working 14 to 16-hour days, I don’t know how it compares to what he went through, but it’s a lot of work.”
With a grandfather who served in the Korean War and an older brother in the Reserves, Shannon is continuing a line of service in the Marine Corps, despite her father’s protests.
“I tried to talk both of them out of it,” James said. “I didn’t want them to take the same path I did, but they wanted it and there was no talking them out of it.”
Shannon’s brother, Sgt. James P. Flaherty, an aviation information systems specialist with Marine Aircraft Group 49, returned to the states in January after serving at Al Asad. After relenting to his childrens’ decision to join the Marines, James was determined to have at least some say in their career paths.
“I wanted them to get the most out of the experience,” Flaherty said. “There aren’t a lot of career opportunities for grunts. I wanted them to be able to succeed once their time was over. I called their recruiter and very specifically laid out what their (military occupational specialties) were going to be.”
Shannon’s father also saw to it that her recruit training experience was physically comprehensive.
“I contacted her senior drill instructor and asked that all past grievances to me be paid back in full,” Flaherty said.
“They got me pretty good (during physical training),” Shannon said. “He definitely hooked me up.”
Having two members of the family deployed to Iraq was a challenge, but Shannon said her mother took it in stride.
“She felt better that Dad would be out here, in case I needed him I guess,” Shannon said. “She’s taking it pretty well, all things considered.”
Shannon’s father also used the opportunity to check in with her senior leaders in the squadron. He was pleased to hear nothing but praise for his daughter’s performance during the deployment.
“She’s been lights out the whole way,” James said. “Everyone had nothing but positive things to say. She’s working long, hard days and she won Marine of the Quarter, so she must be doing something right.”
Many families may worry about their children joining the Marine Corps family, but James knows his children are in good hands.
“These are well-trained, hard-charging Marines,” Flaherty said. “I know they can take care of themselves and the Marines around them. I may not have been happy about it when they made the decision, but it’s hard not to be proud now. The good thing is that they couldn’t run away from me by joining the Marine Corps.”