Holland residents Patti and Eric Harman don’t need a lot for Christmas this year. On Nov. 13, Santa delivered the single item on their wish list – their boy, safe and sound on U.S. soil.
On Sept. 10, their son Timothy, an Air Force senior airman, deployed from MacDill Air Force Air Base in Tampa, Florida to Al Dhafra Air Base, AbuDhabi, United Arab Emirates. For the Harmans, it’s been a long, bittersweet two months. While they were proud of Tim for serving his country, he was doing so in a hostile, dangerous area, and a smooth return stateside was far from guaranteed.
Shortly after Tim’s deployment, Patti and Eric were guests of honor at the Sept. 25 Northampton Township board of supervisors meeting. As part of the community’s Northampton Patriots Flag Program, which recognizes all local residents serving in harm’s way, they placed an Air Force flag bearing Tim’s name in a large display. Here, it waited for its owner to come home and retrieve it.
During the Nov. 20 meeting, Patti and Eric were in attendance once again. But this time, instead of fear and worry behind their eyes, there was nothing but happiness as Tim stood between them.
To officially welcome him back to the township, chairman Barry Moore presented him with the Air Force flag his parents held in September, and replaced it in the display with an American one, also emblazoned with his name.
“I want to thank all of you for being out here supporting me and my family,” Tim said humbly. “It’s good to be home.”
His father also expressed gratitude.
“I always want to thank Northampton for what you do,” Eric said. “Northampton is a community that’s really unique in Bucks County. It’s really, really appreciated.”
According to Pete Palestina, flag program coordinator, Harman is the 90th patriot to be honored since the initiative was launched by the board of supervisors in 2003. Currently, only two military flags await the return of their respective owners, one Army and one Coast Guard.
“As many of you know, this all began 16 years ago on April 23, 2003 when the board of supervisors introduced our Northampton Patriots Flag Program. That was to honor our Northampton residents serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Back then, we knew of 24 such residents, and as of today, due to our expansion of the program to include Afghanistan and other hostile areas, we know of 90,” Palestina explained. “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.”
Surrounded by family, friends and members of the Marine Corps League and Veterans Advisory Commission, Tim received citations from Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick’s veterans advocate Peter Chong, Sen. Tommy Tomlinson’s staffer Nick Diasio and Rep. Wendi Thomas’ staffer Kevin Bongarzone.
Moore also took a moment to address the Harmans.
“Tim and your family, we really appreciate all the efforts you’ve made and all the efforts of all the people who have gone overseas,” he said. “This is a showing of support for you and all the sacrifices you’ve made. It’s always much more fun giving the service flags back, so I’m very anxious for the day there’s all American flags back there.”
Palestina closed out the “welcome home” ceremony with a few final words.
“As has been documented so often nowadays, those that serve our country in the military 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 is doing for the freedoms we enjoy here at home.” ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org