When Rep. Wendi Thomas informed her fellow state House members that she’d be making the two-plus-hour drive from Harrisburg to her hometown of Northampton last Wednesday evening, she admitted they looked at her like she was crazy.
But, for her, the traffic she’d surely encounter was more than worth it. Timothy “Timmy” Harman, a Holland resident who attended elementary school with her children, and whose mother Patti was on the PTO with her, was being honored during a special board of supervisors meeting.
On Sept. 10, the young Air Force senior airman was deployed to AlDhafra Air Base, AbuDhabi, United Arab Emirates. In order to recognize his bravery, and make it known to the wider community, the supervisors hosted a flag placement ceremony, which took place Sept. 25 at 7:30 p.m. at 55 Township Road, Richboro.
The ceremony was part of the Northampton Patriots Flag Program – an initiative that launched 16 years ago by the board of supervisors at the time. Originally, it was created to honor local residents serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, with 24 such residents known.
“As of today, due to our expansion of the program to include Afghanistan and other hostile areas, we know of 89,” said former supervisor Pete Palestina, founder of the program.
Behind Palestina sat a large wooden display, which proudly held 89 military and American flags.
“At one time, all were military flags, each representing the branch of service and identifying the resident with a yellow streamer with his or her name affixed to it. As each one returns home, and so far 86 have, we return his or her military flag and replace it with an American one,” he explained. “After tonight, there will be 90 total flags, with two of them armed services flags that will be awaiting return to its representatives – an Air Force flag and a Coast Guard flag.”
Present on behalf of Harman was his parents, Patti and Eric. Led by chairman Barry Moore, and surrounded by the Marine Corps League Patriot Detachment, Veterans Advisory Commission members and other veterans, the pair placed their son’s Air Force flag in the display, where it will wait until its owner’s safe return to the states.
Once the flag was settled in its new home, Palestina invited Patti and Eric to say a few words. Both were extremely grateful to the township.
“It’s been a place where all three of our boys have grew up and it’s a wonderful place to live all these years,” Eric said. “Northampton, you all stepped up.”
In attendance was Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick’s staffer Matt Gruda, Sen. Tommy Tomlinson’s constituent outreach specialist Brittany Toryk, and Thomas, who informed the Harmans that she’s thinking about and praying for their son every day.
“Northampton’s a special place. This does not happen anywhere else,” Thomas said of the flag program. “This doesn’t happen in other places, and we should all be proud as Northampton residents.”
Moore, whose father and uncles all enlisted on the same day for World War II, expressed the necessity of honoring members of the armed forces who are serving in harm’s way.
“I know it’s a very difficult time when family members are overseas, and everyone in the township certainly appreciates that,” he told Patti and Eric. “I think it’s very important that people appreciate the sacrifice these people made and are currently making. It is a hardship, but the day is going to be great when you come back and put an American flag. We’re looking forward to that. I certainly feel your pain, but we’re confident he’ll be back.”
When Harman returns home after his deployment, the supervisors will host a welcome home ceremony, where his Air Force flag will be presented to him and replaced in the display with a personalized U.S. flag.
“As has been documented so often nowadays, those that serve our country in the military are at risk whether they are on U.S. soil or foreign soil, and their lives are put in the line each and every day,” Palestina said at the conclusion of the ceremony. “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 firstname.lastname@example.org