by Stewart Gross
Welcome Home Seaman Robert Hayes. Godspeed Major John Pavlovick!
Northampton Township has now recognized 92 residents who have been deployed to dangerous “forward” areas of the world in defense of the United States.
The township began the tradition of the Northampton Patriots flag program on April 23rd, 2003 to honor Northampton residents serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, also known as the Second Persian Gulf War.
That year, 24 residents were recognized.
The township currently displays 92 flags.
When a Northampton resident is deployed to a “forward area” a flag is placed in the middle of the township council chamber behind the board table where the town council members sit to conduct business.
Upon deployment, the flag of their branch of the service is placed there and a ceremony conducted to wish them and their family well during their tour of duty.
When the service person returns safely from their tour, a welcome home flag exchange ceremony is held for the service person and their family.
At this point, the service person’s branch flag is replaced permanently with an American flag bearing a yellow ribbon with his or her name inscribed on it.
Both took place on Monday evening, January 6th, at the yearly reorganization meeting of the Northampton Township Board of Supervisors after the swearing-in of the recently elected and re-elected members.
First, the Welcome Home Flag Exchange was held for Coast Guard Seaman Robert Hayes.
Robert could not be present for the ceremony since he has moved since returning stateside.
He was represented by his good friend, Jeff McKinnon, who retrieved his Coast Guard flag.
Board of Directors’ Chairman, Adam Selisker, placed Robert’s U.S. flag.
Robert was deployed to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf from his base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in November of 2018.
His parents, Mary Jo and Mickey Hayes placed Robert’s personalized Coast Guard flag in the display, where it remained for the last year until his return this past December of 2019.
Marine veteran Pete Palestina read a letter of commendation from Hayes’ commander, Captain C.C. Potter, who was his commander in the Coast Guard Patrol Forces in Southwest Asia.
Robert served aboard the USCGC Aquidneck.
Potter specifically noted that Hayes acted “as a gunner and a loader during general quarters…and acted with courage and maturity during several tense interactions with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy and contributed to the safe de-escalation of each interaction.”
Two other accomplishments that Potter recognized Robert for, were that he took “ownership of the Deck Department while the Department Head was on leave,” and taking the lead in “integrating three new members of the coast guard into the foreign environment.”
He also commended Robert for frequently taking on “additional ant-terrorism force protection watch to allow his shipmates to take leave or attend required training.” Robert was authorized to wear the Commandant’s Letter of Commendation Ribbon Bar.
Robert’s ceremony was followed by the US Army flag placement for Army Major Jon Pavlovcak.
Major Pavlovcak was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on September 19th, 2019.
His wife Karen, daughter Kate, and son Jack placed Jon’s personalized Army flag into the display where it will remain until he returns from his deployment.
PHOTO CAPS: 1. From left, Jack, Kate, and Karen Pavlovcak, with Supervisor’s Chairman Adam Selisker.
2. Jeff McKinnon with Robert Hayes’ flag.