AL ASAD, Iraq --
A lot of families have traditions, something that is passed down from generation to generation. For some, its opening presents on Christmas Eve. For others, it is passing the reins of the company business on to the kids.
For one family, it is serving in the military.
The Flaherty family, from Sewell, N.J., have three generations of serving in the military. Members of two generations were able to spend a day together in Al Asad, Sept. 18, after almost a year apart.
Cpl. Shannon Flaherty, an avionics technician with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466, spent the day with her father Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Flaherty, the mayor of the Ar Ramadi governance center.
Shannon is preparing to return to the states after a seven-month deployment with HMH-466, but her father still has a few months to go before he gets to go home.
“That’s why I had get down here to see her,” explained James. “I had to make the arrangements to come down and see her before she left. It’s been almost a year since I last saw her.”
The two spent the majority of their day talking and catching up with each other. The opportunity to see her father was not the only benefit from being deployed at the same time according to Shannon. It also made it easier to get in touch with a family member.
“It’s nice being able to pick up a phone in the office and just be able to dial a (Defense Switching Network) line on another base to be able to get a hold of him, vice having to wait in line for a half hour to be able to call home back in the states,” said Shannon. “It’s convenient. It’s nice to have someone to talk to right away if you need someone.”
There are two more Flaherty’s currently serving in the Marine Corps – Shannon’s brothers James and Kevin. Staff Sgt. James Flaherty is stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., and Pfc. Kevin Flaherty recently graduated from recruit training aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.
Having most of her family in the military has made life a little different, according to Shannon.
“It’s interesting, you come home on holidays and it’s a treat to have everybody there,” said Shannon. “We’re all on so many different schedules. I’m stationed in California so I’m not even on the same coast as everybody.”
But it does have its advantages.
“You can call someone when you’re having a bad day, and they know what the heck you’re talking about, because they have been through the same thing,” explained Shannon. “Or they have advice to give you on how to deal with the situation. Civilian life and military life are completely different.”
At first, James, who was called out of retirement for the second time for this deployment, did not initially agree with his kids’ decisions to enlist. He eventually came around and started acting as overwatch for their careers. He made sure that their military occupational specialties would transfer over to the civilian world, and he has been involved in their training since boot camp.
“When my son Jim went to boot camp, I called his drill instructor and asked him for a favor.
I said ‘Put him in the dirt, make it rain and put him in pain.’ And I was kind enough to do the same thing for (Shannon). Of course, I can’t let the third one get away without having some sort of influence, so the same message was sent to his drill instructor.”
Having the majority of a household serving in the Marines means some adjustments had to be made at home, said James, but his wife supports the Leathernecks in the family 100 percent.
“It’s tough finding a banner with four stars that you can hang in your window, but she’s very supportive of the whole thing,” said James. “She knows that what we’re doing is the right thing to do. As all families are, we just can’t wait till its over and we can get everybody back home.”