Man joins son on nine-day Navy cruise
John Flaherty temporarily enlisted in the Navy.
Flaherty, 45, joined his son, Brandon, aboard the USS Essex for a nine-day voyage from Pearl Harbor to San Diego.
Flaherty was a member of a tiger cruise, a group of family members invited to join their children aboard ship. Brandon, a 1997 graduate of Douglas High School, works in the engineering department of the USS Essex.
The Essex is 844 feet long and carries Harrier jets, helicopters and landing craft air cushioneds (LCAC). The ship also sailed with the USS Anchorage and the USS Duluth.
n Months to get ready. “I was all jazzed up to go,” Flaherty said. “I prepped myself up for it, both physically and mentally, for months.”
Flaherty, a Topaz Ranch Estates resident, works as a meat cutter at Scolari’s in Gardnerville.
Brandon Flaherty signed his dad up for the trip, called the Essex Westpac ’98 Tiger Cruise. Flaherty completed an application and he was chosen, along with 249 other Navy brothers and fathers and 250 Marine brothers and fathers, to travel with his son for nine days.
“They did this neat ceremony as we were pulling out of Pearl Harbor and another one as we were pulling into San Diego,” Flaherty said. “As we were pulling out of the port in Hawaii, the captain was speaking over the PA system and they played patriotic music and blurbs from news clips. Everybody was awestruck. You could hear a pin drop.”
The Essex is home to 3,500 service members, both in the Navy and the Marines. During the cruise, classes were offered to the family members on everything from knot-tying to food preparation to Morse code, according to Flaherty. The crew also did demonstrations with the Harrier jets, helicopters, LCACs and Combat Information Center Operations.
“Brandon is friends with someone in just about every area of the ship. I would get my own kind of personal demonstrations,” Flaherty said.
Flaherty mentioned that everyone had the utmost courtesy on the ship.
“Everyone said, ‘please, thank you, excuse me.’ You wouldn’t see someone bumping into someone else without pardoning themselves,” Flaherty said. “I guess in that close of a space, you have to respect everyone.”
Brandon Flaherty added that his shipmates are a family. “It really is a whole other family. They are the ones who are there for you during the hard times. These are the people who get you through that six months.”
Brandon’s rank is fireman. The engineers keep the ship going 24 hours a day, and in very unfavorable situations at times.
“While we were over in the Gulf, temperatures would get up to 140 degrees. Guys would have to work for awhile and then go sit in an air-conditioned room. Even now the temperatures are pretty high,” Brandon Flaherty said.
Flaherty said that Brandon and his friends even supplied him with clothing for the duration of the trip.
“It was really comfortable and practical,” Flaherty said.
Brandon Flaherty spent six months at sea before he met up with his dad in Hawaii. He toured the western Pacific, stopping in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Jebal Ali and Oman. The tour was also supposed to include Africa and Australia, but the sailors didn’t make it there.
“On our way to Africa, we were called into the Gulf. We must have gone in and out of the Strait Hormuz 12 times,” Brandon Flaherty said. While the sailors never participated in actual warfare, they came close.
“We had some of their boats come really close to us one night,” Brandon Flaherty said. “We just turned our guns toward them and they went away. We didn’t ever actually have to fire.”
“Thank, God,” Flaherty added.
n Big welcome home. A big welcome home ceremony was held in San Diego for the sailors and their family members. According to Flaherty there were about 1,000 people waiting when they reached the port, including reporters and helicopters.
Flaherty basically followed his son around for nine days. “All I did was follow him around and take pictures. His friends said they couldn’t understand it because he was so excited for me to get there and then he was getting sick of me,” Flaherty said with a laugh.
“I would take one camera away from him and he would just pull another one out,” Brandon Flaherty said with a smile.
Flaherty took about 150 pictures.
“My bill was $98, but it’s worth it,” Flaherty said.
Brandon, 20, is the youngest of two brothers and a sister. He is the only family member, other than his father, who served in the military. John Flaherty enlisted in the Army and served two years.
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