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Future aviator accepts appointment to Naval Academy

Claire Brophy keeps her family’s Navy legacy going

By Steve Ranson Nevada News Group
Rear Admiral Richard Brophy is with his children at a March 31, 2019, frocking ceremony at Dahlgren Hall, Annapolis, Md. From left are Tommy Brophy, Madeline Brophy, Rear Adm. Brophy, Katherine Brophy, Meghan Brophy and Claire Brophy.
Courtesy

The Brophy legacy is adding another name to it long line of distinguished family members who will attend the U.S. Naval Academy.

Claire Brophy, the youngest daughter of Rear Admiral Richard and Kara Brophy, accepted an appointment to the academy, becoming a student in the Class of 2024. Her father, commander of the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center, and her mother moved to Fallon more than one year ago, but Claire decided to stay at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., for her senior year. She graduated first in her class of 423 with a weighted grade point average of 4.34.

Yet, it was that personal call beckoning Claire to attend the USNA that made her persevere during senior year.

“My family history is definitely the reason I fell in love with the academy, but my family — having such deep ties with it — wasn’t quite the motivation for going there,” she said, adding every night at the dinner table, her family talked about the Navy. “Even if you are a musician or social worker like my sisters, it is inevitable to know a lot about the military, and more specifically the Naval Academy. It is woven into our family, whether we like it or not. I was fortunate to be one of the siblings that liked the notion.”

It hasn’t been an easy year, though, because Claire’s parents moved to Fallon, and then she finished her final quarter via the internet because of her school going to virtual instruction because of the coronavirus pandemic. Claire said three constants, though, have remained with her despite all the military moves: family, church and the commissary, but she lost the one constant with family.

“My dad was stationed across the country, taking my mom with him and leaving me to finish my senior year,” she said. “Not only did this decision allow me to continue my leadership positions, sports involvement, and rigorous AP classes, but this independence presented an opportunity for me to develop my character and integrity. Living apart from my parents has cultivated an environment where being responsible, trustworthy and independent is the only option.”

The school year became one where she controlled her own decisions and held herself accountable for her mistakes.

Kara also attended the Naval Academy and said her daughter knows what she wants out of life and doesn’t allow much to deter her. She said her daughter’s intuitiveness is perceptive and observant when looking at other people and facing situations. Compassion, said Kara, is another strong attribute, especially with Claire’s thoughtfulness and caring toward others. Claire’s desire to attend the academy didn’t shock her mother.

“When Claire’s oldest sister (Meghan) told me she wanted to attend the Naval Academy, I was shocked and didn’t see it coming,” Kara recalled. “Claire didn’t even need to tell me. As I said, she is a keen observer and I saw her watching and listening to her siblings around their academy experience. When she started reciting rates, practicing a perfect salute, decorating her room in blue and gold, asking her father insightful questions regarding the military, it was pretty darn clear.”

Admiral Brophy came from a working-class family, and his father enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1953. His father also instilled the need for having a solid education and became the first in his family to graduate from college in 1961. Those lessons of having a good education and the importance of military service affected both the admiral and Kara with their five children. He said the values instilled in their children are not only for the military but also in alternate ways for two of them to serve in the civilian community.

Kara spent five years on active duty as a naval supply officer and is a third-generation academy graduate. Her grandfather, James H. Flatley Jr., was a World War II ace, and the guided-missile frigate USS Flatley was named after him. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1929, the same year as did Fallon’s Bruce Van Voorhis, who also became an aviator during World War II. Her father, James H. Flatley III, is a retired admiral who served multiple tours in Vietnam.

“We never actively encouraged our children to attend USNA,” Admiral Brophy said. “In order to make it through the curriculum and graduate, you have to want it yourself. Once our oldest attended, I believe it was her success that had the greatest influence on our other two.”

The admiral said Claire contains the best traits of Kara and him … passion, commitment, hardworking, athletic and inspirational leadership qualities. Kara, though, said she will encourage Claire not be too tough on herself.

“She is competitive, and she is following in the footsteps of so many family members and that carries some pressure. But she is going to chart her own path by being herself, and I have no doubt she is going to thrive beyond her own imagination.”

In just 17 years of her life, Claire has charted her own course. During four years of high school, Claire was a four-year member of both swimming and girls soccer, where she served as captain for each sport this year. She led student government in her senior year as president and was the primary coordinator for many school activities. Other activities included those that nurtured her leadership qualities.

Although her plebe or first year as a midshipman will be another experience, she will have her older brother Tommy, 22, not too far away. He will be a first-year midshipman. Claire said he has been a shining light of information about the Naval Academy. Likewise, Admiral Brophy knows the difficulties of applying for admission and then beginning first-year studies. Originally, though, he was told by an academy counselor the USNA wasn’t interested in his application

“It was the worst thing that ever happened to me, and ultimately, it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “It cost me a couple of extra years to get into to USNA, but it taught me the meaning of fortitude, sacrifice and commitment.”

From her parents and brother, Claire has heard the stories of previous families members and their military service and attendance at the academy. Claire, though, says she actually sees Tommy live the academy life and how happy he is, knowing Annapolis is the perfect place for him. She strongly believes the Naval Academy will be a strong fit for her as well.

Already, Tommy has given his “little sister” the specifics of Plebe summer and what to except during the first year. Both are entering a new, unknown phase in their studies, though, specifically with the coronavirus restrictions.

 “I think I will be able to give her much more help once we are actually at the academy together and she has a better feel for how the school works,” he said. “For now, I’ve just told her to make the most of it. My plebe year, my older sister Meghan told me that if she could go back in time, she would do it all over again, which seemed crazy to me at the time, but looking back now I definitely agree with her.”

Both have an interest in political science (as did their mother and older sister, Meghan), and Tommy is planning to do his capstone next year on the relationship between the United States and China. Soon, he’ll travel to Quantico, Va., for three weeks of summer training with the U.S. Marine Corps in an exercise called Leatherneck.

Like their father and maternal grandfather, both Claire and Tommy want to be naval pilots. Being in Fallon because of COVID-19 has given Tommy another exposure to the aviation community. Family legacy also represents pride to Tommy and where he is today. From his upbringing, Tommy said he learned about the great naval career benefits, and he also wanted to pursue a career in the military.

“To be just one name in a long line of impressive careers can be daunting to me at times, but I know that my family would support my interests no matter what I chose to do,” he said.

Kara said she’s extremely proud of her families’ service throughout the generations from military to civilian endeavors; however, she is pleased how well her family has demonstrated the rewards of military life.

The sky is now the limit for Claire as she prepares for the future.

“If I am lucky enough to be selected as a pilot that means I’ll be in for another nine years after graduation,” she said. “Flying jets would obviously be pretty cool, but it is a very competitive field, and I see myself being happy in multiple areas.”