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by Michelle Diament, AARP Bulletin, December 23, 2009
When retired Army Col. Van T. Barfoot moved to Henrico, Va., in June to be near his daughter, the 90-year-old Medal of Honor recipient never expected that he would be returning to battle. But that’s exactly what happened when Barfoot erected a flagpole in his yard.
Barfoot’s home is located in a community governed by a homeowners association, which claimed that the flagpole violated the association’s rules. The group told Barfoot to take it down or face litigation.
But the veteran, who raised his flag for 34 years at his previous residence in Amelia County, Va., wasn’t about to change his ways.
“All my life from childhood to now I have been able to fly the American flag,” Barfoot says. “In the time I have left I plan to continue to fly the American flag.”
The Sussex Square Homeowners Association insisted that the flag was not the issue. Rather, the flagpole violated the association’s bylaws on aesthetics. So they gave Barfoot a deadline to remove the pole.
As Barfoot’s story became public, however, an outcry ensued. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., stepped in to mediate as groups like the American Legion took up the veteran’s cause.
The dispute even came up at a White House press briefing at which press secretary Robert Gibbs called it “silly” that a neighborhood association would give a veteran grief about flying the flag.
Under pressure, the neighborhood association backed off its threat of legal action, for the moment at least.
Now Barfoot continues his daily flag-raising tradition, relieved that there has been some resolution, according to his attorney John Honey.
“It’s more than just flying the American flag for him,” Honey says. “It’s the ceremonial aspect of waking up in the morning and putting the flag up and taking it down each night and having it fly throughout the day.”
Michelle Diament is a frequent contributor to the AARP Bulletin and Bulletin Today.
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