We may sleep tonight knowing our Nation is safe.
That is, of course, if the Hickey brothers of Centerville have anything to say about it.
Ross, Ethan, Nolan and Lee Hickey were all raised in the town of Barnstable, the four sons of longtime youth sports coach Paul Hickey and former wife Stephanie. Each of them has taken an oath to protect our country – with three of them currently serving on active duty abroad.
Lee Hickey, the youngest Hickey boy and a 2014 graduate of Barnstable High, recently graduated from the United States Navy Recruit Training at Great Lakes, Illinois (Oct. 31) and is currently at Pensacola, Florida undergoing MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) training in information technology. This past summer he could be seen working at Stop & Shop in Marstons Mills, the portrait of a gentleman. For years, Lee was a stalwart football and baseball player in Barnstable.
Ross Hickey, the oldest of the Hickey boys and a 2007 graduate of Barnstable High School, recently signed a six-year contract with the United States Army and was accepted into the Special Forces Infantry Training program and is now stationed at Fort Benning, GA. His second oldest, Ethan, is stationed with the 82nd Airborne in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. His second youngest, Nolan Hickey, recently wrapped up a four-year tour with the United States Marine Corps.
A graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, where he starred in centerfield for coach Bob Corradi from 2008 through 2010, Ross initially had plans to become an officer in the United States Marine Corps and attended Officer Candidate School in Quantico, VA the summer of his junior year at Maritime. Somewhere along the line, he changed his mind and decided that if he was going to become a US Military officer, he’d rather join the enlisted ranks first.
Coach Hickey, as he’s known just about everywhere he goes, understands his son’s logic.
“He said he wants to know what it’s like to be enlisted, before commanding troops,” the coach said.
The Hickey patriarch, in essence, reasoned that being an enlisted man in the US Military is essentially a rite of passage. He, too, served his country, enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1984 and serving through 1990 as a tech controller and cook. Coach Hickey, though, was not the first in the long Hickey line to have stepped into the breach, so to speak.
Coach Hickey’s great-grandfather, Michael J. Hickey, the son of Irish immigrants, was born in Stoneham, Massachusetts and served in the United States Army from 1882-1890, marrying and settling down in Boston in 1895. His son, Coach Hickey’s grandfather, the late John V. Hickey, was born in Boston on the US Marine Corps birthday, Nov. 10, 1897, and he received the Purple Heart fighting in France in World War I (1917-1919). His son, Coach Hickey’s father, Richard P. Hickey, served in the US Army during the Cold War in the mid- to late-1950s. A longtime Boston Firefighter, Coach Hickey’s father Richard was the recipient of the prestigious John E. Fitzgerald Medal “for the most meritorious act,” in 1970 after he entered a Roxbury home engulfed in smoke and flames and saved the life of a child. It is an award reserved for only the most selfless of men.
Quite humble about such heroic acts, and usually quite outspoken, Coach Hickey simply stated that the Hickeys have always considered service to their country and community as their “civic duty.” A school bus driver by day, Hickey was a longtime stand-up comedian in Boston and worked for the state as a corrections officer in Bridgewater before “making a conscious decision” to move to Centerville in 1989 where he said he felt his children would one day benefit by the education system and athletics. He also has a teenage daughter, Shannon. Only time will tell if she, too, joins the long Hickey line to serve.
While son Lee (age 19) is in Pensacola, Florida right now, and Ross (age 25) is in Ft. Benning finishing infantry school, Coach Hickey’s second oldest, Ethan (age 24) is being considered for Special Forces duty while stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina with the 82nd Airborne. Coach Hickey says there’s a fair chance he may be deployed to Afghanistan in the near future. The third oldest Hickey son, Nolan Hickey, as stated earlier, was recently enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.
Each one of the Hickey boys were exceptional athletes throughout their formative years, Ethan, the second oldest, no stranger to the gridiron glory days of his father, Coach Hickey, who played football at Brookline High School after growing up in the Boston “projects,” partly in Florida and then back to his family’s hometown of Brookline.
Ethan led the Mayflower League in tackles his junior year at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Harwich in 2008 as a defensive end and captained the Crusaders’ defense his senior year in 2009. The oldest, Ross, was an exceptional football and baseball player at Barnstable High School and both Nolan and Lee played football and baseball throughout their youth, with Nolan playing linebacker for the Red Raiders for three varsity campaigns through his senior year (graduated from BHS in 2011).
Coach Hickey’s sons were spoon-fed athletics from the day they could walk, starting in Bill Dooley’s Junior League (baseball) in Barnstable, straight through Barnstable Little League and Barnstable Youth Football (Silver Bullets). All along, Coach Hickey was by their side, off and on, coaching the Marjon Printing team in Barnstable Little League and different divisions of the Silver Bullets. All totaled, Coach Hickey spent over a decade in Barnstable youth sports, winning two Barnstable Little League championship titles and he is the only Silver Bullets head coach to have won four (4) OCYFL Super Bowl Championship titles. He’s also one of the founders of the Barnstable High School varsity wrestling program.
Since 2008, unable to fully let go of being a part of what he’s called “the only real community I’ve felt a part of,” Hickey has been a sideline fixture for the Barnstable Red Raiders football program. It’s a part of who he is, and who his sons are, and more importantly, it has been his subtle and quiet influence behind the scenes that has helped so many Barnstable boys take the sometimes difficult path of “sticking with it.”
Coach Hickey spent the past two summers, night after balmy night down at W. Leo Shields Memorial Field, teaching this year’s Red Raider senior placekicker Akeem McPherson how to refine his skills. A Jamaican immigrant just a few years ago, McPherson was instrumental in many of Barnstable’s successful moments this season. Hickey treated the young man like a son.
“My sons have had moments where they may have wanted to give up,” Hickey said, “but I made sure they understood that once you start something, you finish it.”
It’s a lesson that does a student-athlete well, but more importantly, when it comes to the Fighting Hickeys, it’s one that goes a long way toward becoming a soldier or sailor.
There is no easy road to earning the right to wear such a title, but if the Hickeys have anything to say about it, the title of defender of our freedom is one worn with pride and never taken lightly.
And it is one that is paid for with a complete lack of self.