A HERO AND HIS FLAG POLE
Posted by Andrew Roman on December 4, 2009
Please forgive my tone.
I can understand a lot of things I don’t agree with. To be opposed to something does not inherently mean it cannot be understood. But if I live to be one hundred years old, I will never understand the kind of “head-up-your-ass” idiocy on display in one homeowner’s association in Henrico County, Virginia.
Residents of the Sussex Square Homeowners Association (HOA) have the honor and privilege of having a genuine hero for a neighbor. He is 90-year old Colonel Van T. Barfoot, a Medal of Honor recipient, a veteran of three wars, a man who has a building named for him at the McGuire Veterans Hospital in Richmond, a man who has a section of highway in rural Mississippi named in his honor, a man who raises the American flag each and every morning and lowers it each day at dusk.
Association board members, however, are not happy with him.
Colonel Barfoot is being ordered to remove the flag pole on his property for “aesthetic” reasons.
And if the flag pole is not removed by 5:00PM tonight, according to the Coates & Davenport law firm in Richmond (representing the HOA), Barfoot will face “legal action being brought to enforce the Covenants and Restrictions against [him].”
No, really … the HOA has retained a lawyer.
From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
There is no provision in the community’s rules expressly forbidding flagpoles, Barfoot’s daughter said. But she said the board ruled against her father’s fixture and ordered it removed in July, deciding that free-standing flag poles are not aesthetically appropriate. Short flag stands attached to porches dot the community.
“Dad sort of feels like this is the end,” said Margaret Nicholls, Barfoot’s daughter, who lives a few doors away. But she said this morning that she and her husband are attempting to generate support for her father’s cause, a flag-raising rite that he has undertaken for most of his life.
Barfoot received the Medal of Honor on the battlefield during World War II in Italy and fought as well in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Barfoot began regularly flying the flag on Veteran’s Day this year despite the Sussex Square board’s decision.
He said in November that not flying the flag would be a sacrilege to him.
“There’s never been a day in my life or a place I’ve lived in my life that you couldn’t fly the American flag,” he said.
According to the HOA, this isn’t about the American flag, but rather, about the poll. But there is nothing – repeat, nothing – in the bylaws of this particular association forbidding the installation of a flag pole. In fact, the decision by the association declaring the pole “not aesthetically appropriate” was made after it was put in.
The reality is, Colonel Barfoot would have had no reason whatsoever to think that such a thing would be deemed inappropriate. Why would he? Why would anyone? It is a damn flag pole, after all. And it is his property.
And I can’t help but wonder what sort of dunderheaded weasles – with nothing better to do than summon high-priced lawyers to threaten a 90-year old war hero – would find a flag pole unseemly. I can understand frowning upon glow-in-the-dark purple shingles, or placing a see-through outhouse by the driveway, or even allowing goats to run free in the yard, but a flag pole?
To each his own, I suppose.
But I wonder … does the association also frown on yard ornaments like gnomes, pinwheels and statuettes? How about porcelain duckies or all-weather bunnies? Or bird houses? A flag pole is obviously not a lawn ornament, but it would likely fall under the same bylaw provision. It’s hard to imagine that lawn ornaments would be forbidden, even in a dinky little HOA in Henrico County, Virginia.
Incidentally, I’ve actually seen the news reports of this story online, and there is nothing “aesthetically inappropriate” about the pole, in my humble opinion.
But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Colonel Barfoot is completely in the wrong for keeping the flag pole up. One would think that this particular HOA, in the name of decency – and out of respect – would be willing to make an exception for him. It is very unlikely that anyone, save for board members, really have a problem with the flag pole in the first place.
It seems to me the association could have found a better way to handle this.
Clearly, the association is quite involved in the happenings of the community. Would it have been so unreasonable to allow Colonel Barfoot to keep his flag pole and then distribute a newsletter to residents explaining the special circumstances? How about holding a meeting of association residents for the sake of fielding opinions and gauging feedback on the matter? How about showing some basic human consideration for a man who, by almost anyone’s measure, damn well deserves the benefit of the doubt?
One thing I did get out of this story … this particular HOA apparently has no problems with dues being paid on time. They obviously had the cash to retain a law firm.