CARIBBEAN SEA (NNS) -- The crew aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) had less than 36 hours in port to take on supplies and personnel to assist with relief efforts in the Gulf region in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Somewhere in between the working parties and standing watch, they had a few hours of liberty to pack their sea bags and say goodbye to their families for an undetermined amount of time.
But two pairs of fathers and sons got the chance to bring their family with them.
"I'm a very lucky man to have family onboard," said Kearsarge's Chief Information Systems Technician Corbett Wilkinson. "Having my oldest son onboard, especially on his first underway is very exciting. It makes me feel like home isn't so far away."
Wilkinson's son, Hospitalman Ian Wilkinson, is stationed aboard pre-commissioning unit USS Paul Ignatius (DDG 117), which afforded him the opportunity to be assigned temporarily to Kearsarge in support of her mission.
Wilkinson feels nothing but pride seeing his son hard at work.
"I look for him frequently about the ship," Corbett Wilkinson said. "Occasionally I see him speaking with a friend or coworker. I never interrupt; just smile to myself for a moment and let him enjoy his first underway on board a Navy warship."
For Corbett Wilkinson, the timing of his son's assignment was especially fortunate. Ian Wilkinson was able to pin anchors on his father during his father's chief petty officer pinning ceremony in Kearsarge's hangar bay, Sept. 16.
"I was so honored to get the chance to pin on my dad's anchors," said Ian Wilkinson, "especially now that I know how special it is and how much works goes into making a chief."
The Wilkinsons aren't the only family tree with branches throughout Kearsarge's passageways.
Navy Chief Warrant Officer Mark Bradford, Kearsarge's Bos'n, was ecstatic when he learned his son would be embarking.
"Serving alongside your son is a once in a lifetime experience," said Bradford. "I could not be more and happy and proud. It's definitely a blessing I will remember for the rest of my life."
Bradford's son, Lance Cpl. Bradley Rollyson, who forewent the blue coveralls of his father for green camouflage of the U.S. Marine Corps, is attached to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked aboard Kearsarge.
"I always wanted to follow my dad's footsteps and make him proud," said Rollyson. "I knew the Marines are one of the toughest branches and I wanted to push myself to succeed."
Rollyson knew he was getting the opportunity of a lifetime when he found out he was getting underway with Kearsarge, and again when the mission shifted to assistance in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Irma, and later to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
"My father used to tell me stories about how his ship would drop off Marines and take them wherever they had to go, and when I found out I was going to be one of those Marines I realized it was a crazy opportunity we were getting," Rollyson said. "We ended up pretty lucky, serving on a mission like this together and when we get back we'll be able to tell the rest of our family about what we did out here."
After conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts for nearly a month, all four men had plenty to reflect on.
"I'm so happy I made the decision to get underway with Kearsarge," Ian Wilkinson said. "I'm loving every minute, and it's even better I get to share this with my dad, after wondering all these years what exactly it was that he was doing out here."
Wilkinson said how refreshing, and introspective, given his recent promotion, it was to see his son grow as a Sailor.
"The mission keeps us separate for the most part," Corbett Wilkinson said. "But since we've been underway, I've seen my son put away the video games and work out more, grapple with Marines, and stand a proper watch even after working all day long. I think it's amazing I get to see firsthand how he is becoming a Sailor I'm proud to serve with each day."
Bradford mirrored Wilkinson's sentiments.
"While I don't always see my son around the deck plates, I know he is doing what needs to be done to support the mission," Bradford said. "And it's great to see our Navy and Marine team, which we're a part of, working together to get the job done."
Kearsarge and the 26th MEU are assisting with relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Irma to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort.
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For more news from USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), visit http://www.navy.mil/local/lhd3/.