Liberty grad finds ‘home away from home’ at sea
November 1, 2012
By Christina Corrales-Toy
Thomas Timmons spends his day doing what most welders do.
He welds, grinds, brazes and fabricates different metal pieces to make something new.
The difference is that Timmons does his work aboard a mammoth aircraft carrier that is made up of 60,000 tons of structural steel and travels across the Pacific Ocean, protecting the collective maritime interests of the United States and its allies.
In a call from the USS George Washington, as it traveled somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, Timmons spoke about his life on the ship.
Timmons joined the U.S. Navy in 2009 and for the past two years he has called the USS George Washington his home. Aboard the ship, the 2008 Liberty High School graduate, a hull maintenance technician, is known as Fireman Thomas Timmons.
As a student at Liberty, Timmons was a member of the school’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. But he knew long before then that a career in the Navy, and work in engineering, was something he wanted to pursue.
“I made my mind up pretty early on, almost even before high school, that the Navy was something that I wanted to do,” he said. “The thing that attracted me to engineering is that I wanted to get into welding, and the Navy definitely has that covered.”
Timmons spends most of his day in the machine shop where he fabricates different parts of the ship. He generally works to maintain the vessel, whether it is fabricating brackets that prevent pipes from vibrating or mending leaking pipes.
“I really like to be able to weld and really make something out of nothing,” he said. “We just take different pieces of metal and then it really just lets your mind expand and explore the different kind of possibilities of things that you can make.”
While getting to weld is Timmons’ favorite thing about living on the vessel, the worst part, he said, is the 6 a.m. wakeup calls.
“I do value sleep,” he said, “but it’s something that I do have to kind of fight through and just kind of suck it up. Needless to say, after a cup of coffee, usually I’m pretty good to go throughout the day.”
During his time on the ship, Timmons has had the opportunity to visit exotic locales across the Pacific. He has visited ports in Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea and Australia, but his favorite was Singapore.
“It’s a beautiful country,” he said. “The beaches over there are very nice. The people there are very understandable and also very nice. Just the overall feel of it really just kind of gives you a sense of almost being on a kind of tropical vacation.”
Even though Timmons has been on the ship for more than two years, except for the few times he has visited home, he is still amazed at the sheer size of the crew and the strength of the vessel.
“We have a population of about 5,500 people out here on this big, almost floating city, and just about everybody knows everybody and it’s really quite an amazing feat,” he said. “It still amazes me just being able to stand outside on the dock and being able to look up at the ship and imagine how the boat stays afloat just because of how big it is.”
When he first got on the ship, Timmons admitted he battled a bout of homesickness, but now he’s used to being away from home.
“This place is kind of the home away from home,” he said. “But it’s nice being able to take leave once in a while and being able to actually hug Mom and Dad again.”
His parents couldn’t be prouder of their son, the Liberty grad said. In fact, Timmons is following in his father’s footsteps.
“My dad, he was a sailor in his time back in Vietnam and I just wanted to carry on the tradition,” he said. “My dad loves me and he says how much he misses me and all the stories that he can’t wait to hear about all of the ports I’ve visited, and my mom can’t wait for all the pictures that come in so she can scrapbook them and stuff like that. They’re all very happy.”