Barfoot and Flagrant: War Hero Fights For Right to Fly Flag

Col. Van T. Barfoot, 90, is one of the nation’s oldest Medal of Honor winners but has found himself in another desperate struggle: against his neighborhood association. Barfoot put up a 21-Foot flagpole to hoist Old Glory only to be told by the Sussex Square homeowners’ association that he will be sued if he does not take down the flagpole. It appears that the flagpole is a bit too flagrant a display for the “aesthetics” of the association.

Barfoot’s prior skirmish was in World War II. Here is how his Medal of Honor citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 23 May 1944, near Carano, Italy. With his platoon heavily engaged during an assault against forces well entrenched on commanding ground, 2d Lt. Barfoot (then Tech. Sgt.) moved off alone upon the enemy left flank. He crawled to the proximity of 1 machinegun nest and made a direct hit on it with a hand grenade, killing 2 and wounding 3 Germans. He continued along the German defense line to another machinegun emplacement, and with his tommygun killed 2 and captured 3 soldiers. Members of another enemy machinegun crew then abandoned their position and gave themselves up to Sgt. Barfoot. Leaving the prisoners for his support squad to pick up, he proceeded to mop up positions in the immediate area, capturing more prisoners and bringing his total count to 17. Later that day, after he had reorganized his men and consolidated the newly captured ground, the enemy launched a fierce armored counterattack directly at his platoon positions. Securing a bazooka, Sgt. Barfoot took up an exposed position directly in front of 3 advancing Mark VI tanks. From a distance of 75 yards his first shot destroyed the track of the leading tank, effectively disabling it, while the other 2 changed direction toward the flank. As the crew of the disabled tank dismounted, Sgt. Barfoot killed 3 of them with his tommygun. He continued onward into enemy terrain and destroyed a recently abandoned German fieldpiece with a demolition charge placed in the breech. While returning to his platoon position, Sgt. Barfoot, though greatly fatigued by his Herculean efforts, assisted 2 of his seriously wounded men 1,700 yards to a position of safety. Sgt. Barfoot’s extraordinary heroism, demonstration of magnificent valor, and aggressive determination in the face of pointblank fire are a perpetual inspiration to his fellow soldiers.
[edit]Flag controversy

That was before he tried to undermine the Sussex Square Association with his obscene display.

The association insists that it is not the flag but the flagpole. What is curious is that the association voted to ask Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., to attempt to reach a compromise in the dispute. Why not just drop the claim? Here’s an idea. Pass an exception for Congressional Medal of Honor winners. If you win the CMH, you can have a flagpole. That should not present too much of a runaway exception for the association.

Fighting this particular homeowner may not be worth the “aesthetics.” The Iwo Jima Homeowners Association tried the same thing without success.

For the full story, click here.

25 thoughts on “Barfoot and Flagrant: War Hero Fights For Right to Fly Flag”

  1. rafflaw,

    There was an interesting case out of the University of Texas and Political Advertising. It seems that the University had a ban of anything in the windows. It was struck down as being too restrictive. By the way it was a set up case if you knew who the players were.

  2. That was one amazing day in May, 1944. He obviously earned his Medal of Honor. I am a bit torn on this one. Generally, I would simply answer that the guy knew(or should have known) what he was getting into when he bought a condominium. Any owner is subject to the same rules as every other owner. That being said, I do have a hard time not allowing this true American Hero the privilege of flying his flag. I would love to see the Association do the right thing and agree to put up an Association flagpole that he has the exclusive right to utilize during his lifetime. This flagpole could be placed in common property and it shouldn’t be a blight upon the other owners.

  3. First, I’d like to thank Col. Barfoot for his courageous service to our country. My father also served in WWII, and was captured by the Germans, spending months as their prisoner. I never forget what these Americans did for the rest of us.

    Second, this man has EARNED the right to fly the US flag however high he wants to fly it, 24/7, lit at night if he wants to. He earned this by his own actions.

    Third, I don’t know the people sitting on that HOA board, and they may be nice people, and they may be ‘legally’ right, but they are not right in a righteous way. I would be embarrassed and ashamed of myself if it were me.

    Good luck with your battle, Col. Barfoot. I support you.

  4. foo and rcampbell are right about the law and Elaine and Buddha are right about the homeowners association. This guy is 90. That means they’ll have to see the giant flag for about 12 more years. After he dies they can perform a satanic ritual that will ward off other CMO winners, and keep them from ever moving into such god forsaken, souless place.

  5. I think this will be a rare case where I’ll be disagreeing with people I often agree with.

    In re home owners associations.

    They are a blight upon free ownership. They are very often petty little fiefdoms some otherwise impotent petty little douche bag uses to harass their neighbors who would much rather just be left alone. I’ve seen it abused too many times. I flat won’t buy property with restrictive covenants propping up the ridiculous practice. If you have a neighbor and their house is becoming a blight, damaging your property value and talking to them like a normal human won’t address the issue?

    That’s what court is for.

    But some idiot who doesn’t pay for my house sure as Hell isn’t telling me what to do with it short of a court order. Maybe not even then. If he doesn’t like the way I shape my hedges, he’s free to express his opinion and I’m free to eject him from my property once he starts giving me orders. His choice. If you don’t like it, trespass is a criminal violation. You’re free to come screw with me about the fence design. If you piss me off, I’m free to eject you and if you resist, have you arrested. Enjoy.

    I don’t work or live for the approval of a home owner’s association. MY HOME. Not yours unless the home owner’s association wants to make the notes. Then I’ll paint it any damn way you want. However, if the grounds and the building are reasonably maintained and not a health risk or other public hazard, you’re all free to go about your day minding your own damn business. Promise, I’ll leave you to it 99.9% of the time. I’ll have my house painted plaid and encased in lucite if I want. I’ll hire a crew to reduce it to rubble if I want. I may just decide to mow the yard. IT’S MY HOUSE.

    You don’t like what I do with it, don’t live here.

    Most municipalities have some sort of nuisance ordinances and there’s always civil suit. You’re also free not to look at it. If you really think the aesthetics are hurting your value? See you court, sport. The aesthetic of beauty is a sense even though it has mathematical underpinnings. What calls to one may not call to all, but if you want to limit my choices just so you can collect dues and feel important because you’re the neighborhood fashion police – that gets a big ol’ negatory good buddy. Probably a rude hand gesture as well.

    As far as the MoH winners? You don’t get that for selling the most war bonds. It’s a medal you can’t even buy for a politician’s son. You actually have to earn it. I say variance for a flag if the man wants it is harmless reward for his risk and sacrifice and the home owner’s association are a bunch of uptight, self-important, busy-body, unappreciative jackasses with no sense of proportion beyond their own petty desires.

    If they want to ask me, I’ll be glad to tell them what I really think too.

  6. Rules is rules–but there are times when, in my opinion, reasonable people should be willing to make exceptions/concessions in exceptional cases. Call me a sentamentalist. Nixon and Bush didn’t serve their country as honorably as this elderly gentleman did.

    Think of all the zero-tolerance rules and policies proliferating in schools today. Children in kindergarten and elementary grades are being suspended for some pretty dumb reasons.

  7. I’m with flipkid and Bob, Esq on this one. The association has every right to set rules. Once set they should be followed. The issue isn’t this one flag and shouldt be fudged for this sentimental reason or that. Does the gentleman not have to obey traffic rules by virtue of his Medal of Honor status? Being a Medal of Honor winner does not put folks beyond following the rules. Nixon and Bush thought the Constitution didn’t apply to them because they were President and much has been made of that self-exception on these pages. This is no different.

  8. So Congressional Medal of Honor winners are immune from zoning laws?

    This story is ridiculous. The man is subject to the same laws as anyone else. If the zoning laws say no flag pole, then let him get a variance like everyone else.

  9. “Here’s an idea. Pass an exception for Congressional Medal of Honor winners.”

    Right on! I’m not a person who advocates violent actions–but there are times when I think some people just need a good cuff upside the head to knock some sense into their cranial matter.

  10. Off topic but need to post

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/us/04execute.html?hpw

    Killer With Low I.Q. Executed in Texas

    HOUSTON — Bobby Wayne Woods was executed Thursday evening in Texas after his lawyers lost a battle to persuade the courts that he was too mentally impaired to qualify for capital punishment.

    Mr. Woods, 44, was convicted of raping and killing an 11-year-old girl in 1997. He received a lethal injection and was pronounced dead at 6:48 p.m. in the death chamber at a state prison in Huntsville, Tex., after the United States Supreme Court denied a request from his lawyers to stay his execution. His last words, at 6:40, were: “Bye. I am ready.”

    Tests administered to Mr. Woods over the years placed his I.Q. between 68 and 86, prompting a bitter debate between his lawyers and the state over whether he was too impaired to face execution. The state and federal courts repeatedly sided with prosecutors.

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  12. He lives on property subject to an HOA covenant that prohibits things like huge flagpoles. Barring a showing that the covenant is some kind of unreasonable restraint on his property, the fact that he won a MOH is irrelevant.

    Now of course, common sense, decency, etc. says that the HOA are being a bunch of douche bags, but what they are doing is well within the law.

    Therefore, if no exemption is created for him, he will have to comply, or the HOA can probably put a lien on his home.

  13. Never ever buy a house that comes with an HOA. Why any sane person would pay heaps of money to subject themselves to the lawn nazis and garbage can tyrants is beyond me.

  14. Exemption.

    He’s earned the right to fly damn near anything he wants at his house. A flag shouldn’t be an issue.

  15. I think he has earned the right to fly that flag on whatever height flag pole he desires.

    I used to live in a neighborhood governed by an HOA, it was not good and the presidents are usually little flower pot Nazis trying to impose their will on others for the sake of “property values”. I would not live in another HOA if hell froze over.

    Col. Barfoot needs to get a bigger flag pole, maybe 60′ tall and really piss those pis-ants off.

  16. To me it depends on the language in agreements each resident must adhere to.

    If they are singling out any one resident indiscriminately it does not matter so much what it is about.

    “Hard cases make bad law” so the resort to glorified emotionalism is dicta.

  17. It’s his property, he pays the mortgage and the property taxes, and he’s a 90 yr old man who fought for our country. Not quite sure why he cannot have the flag pole.

    I really don’t see how it creates a problem for anyone else in the neighborhood. How does it hurt them? How does it affect their property values?

    This one will turn out well for this man, as he’ll have more supporters than whiners.

  18. I will likely be the lone voice in the wilderness here, but I don’t think the neighborhood association is being that unreasonable. They’re not telling him that he can’t fly the flag, they’re just asking for some restraint in the height of the pole.

    I have seen too many instances of “I have a bigger flag/higher flagpole/red white & blue ribbon sticker on my car so I’m a patriot and YOU’RE NOT” behavior since 9/11.

    Maybe it’s just me…

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