Allentown graduate now a long way from home

Soldier’s mother tells of son’s experiences in Iraq

BY JANE MEGGITT Staff Writer

Most members of the Allentown High School (AHS) class of 2005 are in college, studying for their future careers. Others have jobs and just began exploring the options life holds for those entering their 20s.

At least one 2005 graduate is in a very different situation, however. William Benjamin Haigh, 21, is thousands of miles away from his family and friends and in the midst of danger every day. He is in the U.S. Air Force, serving in Iraq.

His mother, Janet Bivona, said Haigh had been working on F-130s but is now serving as a policeman in Iraq. She said he entered the service right after graduation, knowing the chances were very high that he would serve in Iraq.

Serving his country has been Haigh’s dream since he was a little boy, Bivona said.

Haigh’s father served in the Air Force, and, “Ben” always said that he wanted to as well, she said. Her son became a member of the Civil Air Patrol, which is a nonprofit organization that performs 95 percent of continental United States inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force.

Haigh grew up on a small farm across the street from the Upper Freehold Regional School District campus. He walked to school for prekindergarten to 12th grade. However, just prior to his deployment, Haigh’s family moved to Townsend, Del.

The Bivonas have three younger children. Rocky is a high school junior, Jennifer an eighth-grader and Sam a fifth-grader. Bivona said high taxes drove them out of the area, but her husband, Randy Bivona, who is Haigh’s stepfather, often returns to Monmouth County in his work as a farrier.

In July 2006, Haigh married his high school sweetheart, Tammy Bora of Millstone, at the Allentown Presbyterian Church. He had been stationed in Florida, which is where the couple lived before his deployment to Iraq two months ago.

Although Haigh is only scheduled to be in Iraq for another four months, he will likely stay there longer, according to his mother.

Bivona said her son usually calls at least twice a week. She regularly sends him care packages with personal supplies and because his superior doesn’t have a family, she sends items for him, too.

“A lot of the soldiers need pen pals and people to send packages to them,” she said. “They don’t have a lot of time to go to the PX [a post exchange operated by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service].”

Haigh told his mother that three of his friends have gone home in body bags, after they were blown up while on patrol.

When asked how she copes with her son being in a war zone, Bivona said, “We deal with it and hope he gets out OK. Ben’s there, and this is what he is doing for his country.”

She said she knows of at least three of his AHS classmates who also joined the military after graduation.

The Committee to Honor Those Who Serve, located in Upper Freehold, is currently collecting the names of local military servicemen and servicewomen for a community plaque.

Thus far, the plaque will recognize the United States Air Force’s Haigh, Stephen and Linda Vele Alexander of Upper Freehold, and Matthew C. Scudder of Allentown; the United States Marine Corps’ Jeff Van Hise and Mark Meloro, of Upper Freehold, and Richard Molnar and Matthew J. Blanchard, of Allentown; the Army’s Gregory Kneisler of Upper Freehold, and Theodore DeMaria of the Cream Ridge section of Upper Freehold; the Navy’s Joseph Sensi and Ken Giovanelli, of Upper Freehold, and Robbie Giovanelli and Steven Newton, of Allentown; and the United States Navy Reserve’s Larry Cocozella of Upper Freehold.

For more information about the plaque, contact honorserve@optonline.net.