The Northampton Patriots Flag Display has found a new home. On Saturday, November 12th, as part of Veterans Day weekend celebrations, the display was unveiled and dedicated at the Northampton Township Library.
The display has 93 flags, honoring 92 residents of Northampton Township. It formerly stood in the township’s Board of Supervisors meeting room.
The Master of Ceremonies for the dedication was Veterans Commission member David Reese. The keynote speaker was former Supervisor Pete Palestina, who had a major role in the implementation of the flag program. The program was instituted from 2003 to 2021 to recognize and honor residents of Northampton in the military serving in a combat area during the Global War on Terror.
“For the past two decades, honor and remembrance were important words when it came to the Northampton Board of Supervisors and their meetings,” Palestina said in his speech. “After the Pledge of Allegiance, they began all sessions with a brief moment of silence for the men and women who serve our country in hostile areas.
“As for Northampton Township, this just wasn’t enough. They needed to do more.”
Palestina started the flag program in 2003, not long after the invasion of Iraq when a lot of American troops were deployed. He was chairman of the township’s Board of Supervisors at the time and was asked by a resident, Bernadette Heenan, to meet with a group of moms and wives of local military members known as Families of Our Northampton Patriots, with the goal of honoring and supporting troops from Northampton.
They came up with the flag idea, which Palestina brought back to the Board of Supervisors. The idea became a reality on April 23rd, 2003, when hundreds of residents attended a ceremony honoring the troops of Northampton at the Northampton Commons, now known as the Robert Dembrowski Veterans Memorial Park, located at the intersection of Routes 232 and 332.
At the time, there were 24 who were serving, so 24 11×15 inch military flags were prepared and each service member had a family representative there. Each flag had a streaming ribbon with the serviceperson’s name and the flags were place in the ground by a family member, escorted by one of the supervisors; Palestina, Art Friedman, Jim Kinney, John Long and George Komelasky.
The keynote speaker was highly decorated Vietnam veteran Dave Christian. Originally the flags were placed in the ground but the war lasted longer than expected, so the flags were moved indoors to protect them from inclement weather. A display was created to house the flags and it was placed in the township building behind the dais of the Supervisor’s meeting room.
The Supervisors also implemented a program to return the military flag to the person it represented and replace it with an American flag. The first display was made by retired carpenter Dave Hardy from Bucks County Community College and it premiered on November 10th, 2003. The display had 24 flags at the time but the display was capable of holding up to 36.
On April 5th, 2006, Chris Munz, at the request of Bernadette Heenan, presented the township with a new display capable of displaying up to 70 flags. At the time, 37 flags were placed in the display.
“As the years continued and after drilling several more holes to hold 84 flags we were running out of ample space.” Palestina said.
The display was added to and refinished by Dwayne Gessner on October 6th, 2017. Then, with an additional level, the last display had the capacity to hold 132 flags.
At the November 12th ceremony, a color guard was provided by the Marine Corps League’s Patriot Detachment. Township, state and local officials were on hand and remarks were provided by Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick.
Lisa Garner sang the National Anthem and the invocation was given by Chaplain Doug Fulford. The unveiling was performed by representatives of the two families of patriots killed in action, Army PFC Robert Dembrowski, Jr. and Army Master Sgt. Kenneth Elwell.
Dembrowski was killed in action on May 24th, 2007, just a day after his Army flag was placed in the display by his parents. His Army flag was returned to his family posthumously and replaced in the display with an American flag with a black streamer.
Elwell was killed in action in Afghanistan on July 17th, 2011 and his American flag also has a black streamer. Those two flags are placed front and center in the display.
For his efforts, Palestina received a Certificate of Recognition from Wendi Thomas, State Representative, 178th Legislative District.
The display is viewable by the public at the Northampton Library, 25 Upper Holland Road, Richboro.
- Pete Palestina (left) and David Reese at the dedication ceremony.
- The newly installed Patriots Flag Display at the Northampton Library.