Military members and others returning to the Central Coast will be greeted by a patriotic presentation at the Santa Maria Public Airport. The addition will show returning veterans that their service is appreciated, according to Bob Hatch, president/CEO of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce. Hatch is a highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.
An American flag, 8 feet by 10 feet, now hangs on the wall where arriving passengers enter the terminal building. Additionally, flags of the military branches are on display along with a POW/MIA flag, to remember prisoners of war and those listed as missing in action.
Hatch said the project was undertaken by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce at the suggestion of Hugh Rafferty, former airport board member and chairman of the Committee to Improve North County.
Rafferty approached Hatch, Dave Cross, Economic Development Commission Director, and Airport General Manager Chris Hastert about the addition.
“His idea was to have a place of honor for those members of the armed forces returning to the Central Coast, demonstrating that the community recognizes and appreciates their service and sacrifices,” Hatch said. “The idea was quickly embraced by all concerned and a plan was undertaken. The idea of a large American flag as a backdrop, along with standing flags representing all the branches of the armed forces, along with the POW/MIA flag was settled on.”
While the Chamber of Commerce paid for the supplies, donations to help with the expenses came from Rafferty and Leadership Santa Maria Valley.
September 19, 2013 • Santa Maria Times Staff report