A patriotic honor

Northampton Township recognizes Churchville’s Bobby Hayes, a Coast Guard seaman deployed to Bahrain

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Local hero: Coast Guard seaman Bobby Hayes, who was deployed to Bahrain, Persian Gulf in November, was recently recognized for his bravery and service. Pictured are (from left) Bobby Hayes’s father, Mickey, sister Anna, and mother Mary Jo, and Northampton Patriots Flag Program coordinator Pete Palestina. Source: Pete Palestina

When Churchville’s Mickey Hayes learned his son Bobby had plans to enlist in the Army, he shared some words of advice…or so he thought at the time.

Fearing for the safety of his child, as any parent would, he suggested Bobby join the Coast Guard. He never heard of these servicemen being deployed overseas. Mickey didn’t think it ever happened.

But in November 2018, his worst fear, the thing he tried so hard to protect Bobby against, came true. The Coast Guard seaman was deployed to Bahrain, Persian Gulf.

Ever since, Pete Palestina, who coordinates the Northampton Patriots Flag Program to honor local residents serving abroad in harm’s way, continuously approached Mickey about having his son included.

A military flag emblazoned with Bobby’s name and branch of service would be placed in a wooden display inside the Richboro-based administration building, and remain there until his safe return home. At that time, the flag would be replaced in the display with an American one, and a celebration ceremony would be held.

During the Northampton board of supervisors meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 27, Mickey finally obliged. At 7:30 p.m., he, along with Bobby’s mother Mary Jo and little sister Anna, carefully set the personalized flag among the 88 others.

“You’ve asked many times to get the flag going for Bobby and I’ve just always put it toward the back burner,” Mickey said to Palestina. “But now, it really means a lot to my wife and I, and Anna, that Northampton Township does this type of stuff for the servicemen.”

The Patriots Flag Program began 16 years ago on April 23, 2003, when the board of supervisors, which included Palestina at the time, introduced it as a way to recognize Northampton community members serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Back then we knew of 24 such residents, and as of today, due to the expansion of the program to include Afghanistan and other hostile areas, we know of 88,” Palestina said, adding that there are 89 flags because one patriot has two — one for his deployment in 2006 with the Army, and one for his deployment in 2010 with the Navy.

As each returns safely to the U.S., and so far 86 have, the military flag is presented to the resident, or in some cases, family members on their behalf if they are still traveling home from an out-of-state military base.

At one time, according to Palestina, all were military flags, each identifying the resident with a yellow streamer bearing their name. After the Feb. 27 meeting, only two are armed services flags, one Army and one Coast Guard, patiently waiting for their rightful owners to retrieve them.

“We’re proud of him,” said Mickey of his son. “We’re proud of Northampton Township and what you guys do for us.”

Present at the meeting was Peter Chong, who serves as Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick’s veterans advocate.

“Just know that it’s going to be hard for the next couple of months,” Chong told the Hayes family. “But you have the support of this community, and if you guys ever need anything, don’t hesitate to reach out.”

Also in attendance was Rep. Wendi Thomas, who provided them a letter of appreciation to give to Bobby.

“In a world of ordinary people, you are extraordinary,” Thomas read.

Supervisors chairman Barry Moore, who did the honors of presenting the trio with the military flag, shared his longstanding ties to the family. Not only does he run into Mickey almost daily at Dunkin’, his daughter Sarah and Bobby were childhood friends when they played on the same baseball team, which Mickey coached.

“It’s a difficult moment, having somebody overseas, and we certainly appreciate the difficulty of that. You have the township behind you,” Moore said. “A lot of people don’t realize that the Coast Guard does go overseas. There’s 40,000 members, but a certain percentage do.”

Palestina encouraged those present to contact the township if they know of any local military members who have yet to be included in the Patriots Flag Program.

“As has been documented so often nowadays, those that are serving in the military, that serve our country, are at risk whether they’re on U.S. soil or foreign soil, and their lives are put on the line each and every day,” he said. “Northampton and our country are proud of what our military are doing for the freedoms we enjoy here at home.” ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com