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Saluting A Family Legacy

Update: 8/13/09

Maj. Gen Michael T. Flynn ’81, featured in the following Spring 2009 QuadAngles story, is now leading the U.S. intelligence effort in Afghanistan. An interview with Flynn and NPR’s Renee Montagne was broadcast on NPR’s Morning Edition on August 13, 2009. Listen now.

Brothers Mike and Charlie Flynn, two of Helen and Charles Flynn’s nine children, shared bunk beds in the smallest bedroom of the rambunctious Flynn household in Middletown, R.I. Today, the URI ROTC graduates share the wide hallways of the Pentagon and a military legacy with their late father.

“Mike and Charlie were great friends and good athletes,” recalls Helen, noting both sons played sports. “Football, basketball, baseball, you name it. They both loved the water. They were lifeguards during the summers at Second Beach and later played water polo at URI. Being from such a large family, I think all the children learned to compete at an early age and gained the self-confidence needed to accomplish what they set out to do.”

Today Mike, a two-star Army general (major general) is the director of intelligence on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. Brother Charlie, a colonel, recently commanded the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq for 14 months as part of the surge of U.S. Forces. The command had him overseeing thousands of fighting infantrymen and women throughout Iraq. Upon Charlie’s return from Iraq, he was nominated and selected to be the senior executive assistant to the director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.

But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. Mike studied management science and remembers playing sports in Keaney Gym, especially swimming in the pools and playing ball in the intramural basketball leagues. Interested in the military since childhood, Mike joined the University’s ROTC program. He says he learned about organizations, innovation, and change in his senior level management courses while his ROTC training taught him about the principles of leadership.

Commissioned an Army second lieutenant the morning of his graduation in 1981, Mike became an intelligence officer, platoon leader, and then instructor in his early days. Promotions quickly followed.

At first Mike wasn’t sure he wanted to make the military his career, “but after meeting and getting to know some of the best people, leaders, and families we have in our country, you can’t help but want to be around people like this all the time,” he says. “Plus it’s very exciting.”

A glance at the multiple medals gleaming on his uniform tells you Mike really is top brass. Among his decorations and badges are the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Legion of Merit, both with Oak Leaf Clusters. While his Bronze Star has three oak leaf clusters, his Meritorious Service Medal has five. He is most proud of his Jumpmaster wings indicating that he has achieved advanced rating as a paratrooper. But that’s just the beginning.

As director of intelligence for the Joint Staff, Mike reports directly to Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mike is responsible for all intelligence, counterintelligence, planning, warning, and intelligence analysis for the chairman and the Joint Staff and in support of our combatant commands.

On the home front, Mike married his high school sweetheart, Lori Andrade. They have been a team for more than 27 years. “Lori has been a steady presence in the lives of thousands of soldiers and their families during my numerous deployments and has played the role of not only mom, but dad, coach, teacher, and at times, taxi driver for our two sons, Michael and Matt, as well as for hundreds of other children. She’s always willing to volunteer her time for others,” Mike says.

Charlie studied business marketing, became recording secretary and president of Fiji (Phi Gamma Delta) and following Mike’s example, joined ROTC. “It looked like fun, and I thought that maybe I could learn a few things,” he says.

He did. After graduating in 1986 and being commissioned a second lieutenant, Charlie pursued infantry leadership training and climbed the chain of command. He served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, as chief of operations for the 25th Infantry Division, and as battalion commander of the 2-504 Parachute Infantry Regiment. He spent well over a year in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom before assuming his current position at the Pentagon. Like Mike, Charlie works in support of Adm. Mullen.

Charlie claims his wife, Kathleen, has accomplished more than he ever will. With 13 family moves in 22 years (and doing it with three kids), she has done the heavy lifting with schools, work, sports, and clubs while maintaining her career as a neo-natal ICU nurse for the past 23 years. She deals with the houses, the cars, and the taxes, volunteering for everything, and doing it essentially without him around, particularly with the war.

The brothers are part of a larger band of military brothers. Mike, who prefers cheap cars and pizza, and Charlie, who prefers Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops, never miss a chance to meet whenever possible. The two ran into each other in Balad, Iraq in April 2004—at the height of the war—for a quick salute and embrace. Both had overlapping assignments to Fort Bragg, N.C., between 2005 and 2007 and lived next door to each other. Both agreed that they actually saw the other more in Iraq than in their own backyards.

Mother Helen, who spent 20 years traveling as the wife of a soldier before returning to Rhode Island, calls her sons “the daring young men in the military” with a chuckle. She says she does worry about them, particularly when they are out of the country in Iraq or Afghanistan, “but I think we all ought to be concerned about terrorism around the world, especially after 9/11,” she says. “Besides, I know Mike and Charlie are pursuing what they enjoy doing, and I know we are all safer for their service to our country.”

By Jan Wenzel ‘87

3 comments to “Saluting A Family Legacy”

  1. Tom Fitzgerald Capt. USN (ret.) comments:

    They are a great bunch/clan; we moved to Middletown in 1980 with middle son Jim ; he fell in with a crowd that include “Flynn’s”. There always seemed to be at least one of them underfoot. What an incredible family.

    Tom Fitzgerald
    aka Mr. Karakash

    --Posted: April 23rd, 2009 at 5:58 pm
  2. G. Rae comments:

    Beautiful family, MG Flynn’s the best! So glad there are people like them in our nation leading the fight and building relationships with people. He is a remarkable leader, a kind person, hardworking and loyal patriot. The taxepayers sure do get their money’s worth out of MG Flynn. I always wondered how his family was holding up since he was such a busy general. So glad to see that they appear good and happy. He should run for President one day if he and his family wouldn’t mind dealing with politics and buracracy, etc. He would be the best! I will keep the Flynn’s in my prayers. God Bless. :-) GR

    --Posted: August 31st, 2009 at 11:59 pm
  3. Beth (Napoli) McCaffery comments:

    These two brothers (and all of their family) were amazingly funny, intelligent, and kind in their youth. I am neither surprised to learn that as adults they embody those same attributes, nor am I surprised by their achievement, and commitment to their country and humanity. May God Bless them, their work, and their ability to effect change in the world. Thank you both (and your wives and children) for the sacrifices you are making. I will keep you in my prayers.

    --Posted: December 9th, 2009 at 9:21 pm

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