ABOARD USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- Family separation has always been one of the greatest hardships U.S. Sailors endure while serving their nation. For many Sailors, the difficulties of separation are intensified during the holiday season.
Atlantic City Fire Department (ACFD) Capt. Ed Mawhinney, a Naval veteran and father of Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Daniel Mawhinney of USS Carl Vinson's (CVN 70) G-4 Division, understands firsthand the importance of keeping deployed Sailors connected with loved ones during the holiday season.
Mawhinney walked aboard Carl Vinson in San Diego Nov. 26 carrying an 80-pound care package that included almost 100 calling cards for the men and woman of the weapons elevator division.
Mawhinney was one of more than 100 people afforded the opportunity to spend the Thanksgiving holiday underway with a family member stationed aboard Vinson. Unlike others who participated in the aircraft carrier's "Tiger" cruise, Mawhinney was a man on a specific mission.
Aside from spending time with his son, Daniel, a weapons elevator operator, the primary purpose of Mawhinney's visit was to represent the ACFD in their recent adoption of his son's division and to promote the Veterans of Foreign Wars' (VFW) Operation Uplink program.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mawhinney and the rest of the ACFD received admirable support from their New Jersey community. The fire captain from Engine Co. 1, along with several of his fellow firefighters, wanted to share some of that support by honoring military heroes who continue to fight the war on terrorism.
"After Sept. 11th, the ACFD was honored by the local community at a ceremony held in the local baseball stadium," said Mawhinney. "After the ceremony, we were invited to a reception at the local VFW to receive an honor flag."
It was at that reception where Mawhinney first learned about the adopt-a-unit program and Operation Uplink. Both programs were started by the VFW in order to supply forward-deployed troops and hospitalized veterans with calling cards and other amenities to make their lives away from home a little easier.
There was no doubt in Mawhinney's mind that these were programs his department could support. After getting the endorsement from the fire department chief, retired Senior Chief Petty Officer Benjamen Brenner, the program began to take form.
"It's great to know that these fireman, who we respect very much, are thinking about all of us out here," said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (AW) Mike Mohr, G-4's leading petty officer.
The ACFD has been campaigning to raise money for Operation Uplink through various organizations around the country. In fact, the response they have received has been so great they are now planning on providing calling cards and other items for the entire Carl Vinson crew on their next deployment.
"The more people who find out (about this program), the more money we can raise to get calling cards for the crew," said Mawhinney, who will spread the message of Operation Uplink by speaking out on a Seattle talk radio station before returning home.
More information on Operation Uplink and the adopt-a-unit program can be found at www.operationuplink.org.
For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn70.