Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Suburban Henrico, We Can Do Better

This is what happens when most people don’t know anyone who has served our Country, let alone with honour. NOT our finest hour.


Medal of Honor winner Col. Van T. Barfoot is being ordered to remove a flagpole from his yard in western Henrico County.
By Staff Reports
Published: December 2, 2009
Col. Van T. Barfoot, one of the country’s last-surviving Medal of Honor winners, is under the gun from his Henrico County community’s homeowner association.

In a five-paragraph letter to Barfoot that he received yesterday, Barfoot is being ordered to remove a flagpole from his yard. The decorated veteran of three wars, now 90 years old, raises the American flag every morning on the pole, then lowers and folds the flag at dusk each day in a three-corner military fashion.

In a priority mail letter, the Coates & Davenport law firm in Richmond is ordering Barfoot to remove the pole by 5 p.m. Friday or face “legal action being brought to enforce the Covenants and Restrictions against you.” The letter states that Barfoot will be subject to paying all legal fees and costs in any successful legal proceeding pursued by the homeowner association’s board.

Barfoot lives in the Sussex Square community in far western Henrico; its board of directors rejected a plea from Barfoot in July to approve the pole, disallowing the fixture on aesthetic grounds.

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. A portion of a highway in rural Mississippi, his native state, was named in his honor this fall. A building at McGuire Veterans Hospital in Richmond also carries his name.

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.

Story of his medal

Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army 157th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division

Later in his life, Van Barfoot would be hailed as one of the significant Native American heroes of World War II. His grandmother was a full-blooded Choctaw but his mother failed to enroll him with the government as a member of that tribe, so Barfoot grew up aware only that he had American Indian blood, not that he was an “official” Choctaw.

He enlisted in the Army in 1940, before the new selective service law authorizing the peacetime draft was passed by Congress, and he was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division. After his training, he participated in maneuvers in Louisiana and Puerto Rico. In December 1941, he was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the newly activated Headquarters Amphibious Force Atlantic Fleet at Quantico, Virginia. When the unit was inactivated in 1943, he was reassigned to the 157th Infantry.

Technical Sergeant Barfoot took part in the landings at Sicily in July 1943 and at Salerno two months later. In late January 1944, the 157th landed at Anzio and began moving inland rapidly. But counterattacking German reinforcements stopped the Allied advance, even forcing some withdrawals. By May, Barfoot’s unit had been in a defensive position near the town of Carano for several weeks, during which time Barfoot conducted day and night patrols to probe the German lines, mentally mapping out the terrain and minefields in front of enemy positions.

Early on the morning of May 23, his company was ordered to attack. As the lead squads approached the German minefields, they came under heavy fire. Because he knew the lanes through the minefields so well, Barfoot asked for permission to head a squad. Moving through depressions in the terrain and shallow ditches, he advanced to within a few yards of an enemy machine gun on the right flank and destroyed it with a grenade. Then, following the German trench line, he moved to the next gun emplacement, where he killed two soldiers with his submachine gun and wounded and captured three others. When he approached the Germans manning a third gun, they surrendered. In all he captured seventeen of the enemy.

Later in the day, after he had consolidated the newly captured position. Barfoot, seeing three German tanks advancing in a counteroffensive, grabbed a bazooka and destroyed the track of the leading tank, causing the two other tanks to change direction. As the crew of the disabled tank jumped out, Barfoot killed three of them, then continued into enemy territory and destroyed a German fieldpiece with a demolition charge. He ended the day by helping two seriously wounded men from his squad walk nearly a mile to safety.

Not long after this action, Barfoot was promoted to lieutenant. Four months later, his unit was in France’s Rhone valley when he was ordered to division headquarters and informed that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor. Given the choice of returning to the United States for the ceremony or receiving the medal in the field, Barfoot chose the latter so that his men could be present. Lieutenant General Alexander Patch awarded him the medal in Epinal, France, on September 28, 1944.

Medal of Honor Page – Col. Van T. Barfoot.

26 thoughts on “Suburban Henrico, We Can Do Better

  1. It’s hard to believe such a Giant of a man ever existed , like Beowulf or the lone viking of Stanford bridge. God Bless him and his family.

    I am horrified that anyone would give him a hard time about flying the Flag , that he defended with distiction. Absolutley shamefull.

  2. Absolutely unacceptable… Especially for such a decorated veteran, whose name is on a building at my place of work. His dedication and service to this country help preserve his own personal right to fly that flag, and to own his own home. By extension, his service also preserves the freedom of a community to create and maintain rules in the neighborhood. Without his service, we would not have those luxuries.

    More important than the fact that the homeowner’s association has rejected his proposal to fly the flag, I want to know the name of the person who opposed him flying a flag on his property. I understand home owners covenants, and have seen the benefit of them first hand… but refusing to let anybody, especially a veteran, fly an American flag is inexcusable. The person or persons opposed to it should be made exposed and ridiculed.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention… I think it should be easy to organize a significant protest at the VA hospital, and bring more media attention and common sense to the HOA…

  3. It is horrible to see people tell a man who bravely served his country that he can not show his love for his country, especially when the reason is that it doesn’t look pretty. These people should be ashamed to cause grief to a man that made it possible for them to even nitpick over such stupidity. It upsets me to hear this. They should apologize to the good colonel and let him fly his flag. If there is a petition or some other way to help please notify me.

  4. I’m not a Henrican, nor a Virginian, but I also would eagerly sign any petition circulated on the matter, as an American. I also would be happy to recommend a firm for the civil suit if Coates & Davenport takes legal action. Take the lesson, however; HOA’s are virtually limitless in their ability to mess up your life, and are run not by people like you and the neighbors you like, but the crazy neighbor that watches you with binoculars through her blinds. A fairly recent example of HOA insanity occured when a homeowner lost their house and property to the HOA in a dispute over the placement of a rose bush. Can and does happen, and is another reason (besides the inelegance) to say no to planned communities and covenants.

    -Capt. Soapbox

  5. Mr. E, a very similar situation occurred in my town as well. This is what happened–an elderly couple who lived in a rather spiffy ‘assisted living’ apartment complex (one of the most expensive of this type in our city), hung a flag from their apartment balcony. Someone complained to the condominium association, filed a complaint and ultimately the couple received a notice to remove it. The husband was a veteran, the wife was a supporter of Ronald Reagan way before anyone knew who he was, and basically, they are just a very patriotic couple who wanted to fly their flag. Once their children got wind of this controversy, one of them contacted the local television station, a film crew arrived, interviewed these two 80-something ‘perps’, and ultimately, the condominium board was shamed into backing off and the flag remained flown. We really have to ask ourselves how we got to a place where flying the American flag becomes a disturbance . . . especially on private property! A good reminder to all of your readers to do whatever they have to do protect their personal freedoms and liberty. . . and be very wary of those who make decisions about your life, your money, your car choice, your light bulb choice, . . . and your healthcare. Please keep us posted on the outcome in Richmond.

  6. As a one time President of a Home Owners Association in California, I can attest to the tyranny of the people who get themselves elected to HOA Boards. I led a campaign to oust a tyrannical Board and put in a Board for three years that had a modicum of good common sense and neighborliness. Unfortunately, my job responsibilities and travel requirements pertinent thereto, required that I leave the Board. My Board continued for one more term then was replaced by the same types whom we had displaced. The petty rules and annoyances multiplied until I left the Condominium complex. I support this outstanding hero of WWII, as I currently live in a rural development with only a road maintenance agreement to contend with. I too have erected a free standing flagpole. My flag flies 24/7 all year long, with a floodlight lighting the flag during the hours of darkness. No one will ever force me to take that flag down! Fortunately, all of my develpmnt neighbors are patriotic Americans who love their country. all of them have the American flag flying either from poles attached to their homes, or to fences, trees, or other appurtenances. God Bless America and God Bless COL. Barfoot!
    Edward C. Olivares
    USMA 1957
    Monroe, VA 24574

  7. Sad situation. Please remember to place the blame where it is appropriate: on the HOA. The Henrico County government, unfortunately, has very little authority in a situation like this.

  8. i am a veteran and a designer, but not much of a hero or a flag waver. however, i am deeply disturbed that anyone would protest the flying of our national flag at any time. what did any of us serve for? for a hero, or any veteran or citizen, to be hunted down by the design police?

    i hereby subscribe my name to the BARFOOT DECLARATION.

  9. Sign me up. Or tell me where to sign. Unbelievable. Unacceptable. Totally offensive. Since when does a flagpole violate the aesthetics of a housing development? I have a hard time understanding how there could be any other perspective to this story, and as such, the HOA folks are a bunch of jerks.

  10. Put me on the petition, even though I’m three thousand miles away. My grandfather, a WWI veteran, is rolling over in his grave. Unbelievable.

  11. As a Richmonder, I would like to say that this is occurring in the significantly anal rententive Henrico County outside of the city of Richmond. Suburbia hell.

    As an American, it is appalling to thing that this ban on the flagpole was enacted retroactively and the HOA board did not have enough sense – ANY sense – to grant this man an exception as long as he lives at that house and then do whatever they want in the neighborhood in the future.

    Col. Barfoot has served this country in ways that are beyond almost all our our comprehension and never asked for anything except the right to honor the flag that he loves and serves and do so in the manner in which he deems proper – on a flagpole.

    That board deserves the black eyes they are about to get in the media and they will soon be tasting the canvas.

  12. So much insensitivity. Is it because so many people in spite of supporting our troops want this country’s problems fixed First?

  13. Although I’m glad that this man served our Country with Honours, I myself is an Army Viet Nam Veteran , and a native our the United States ,and I also served with Honours of our great country, this should not be happening in our America, the Flag is our symbol, of freedom,and for those who do not understand this,they are not originally from this Country,and from which country they are from,it is us who made it possible for them to live in peace.
    I somewhat dismayed,of the effort for me to be rewarded my Total Disability,and Full Service Connection for the illness I suffer with daily,from serving my Country.
    By me being a Black Male,I find there is no equal justice within the Veterans Administration for Black Males.
    This is wrong.
    And it need to be corrected.

  14. Not only is the American flag a symbol of support for our military, but it is first and foremost a symbol of the principles on which our country was founded and the freedoms American citizens are guaranteed–granted by our Creator and protected by our Constitution. People who want the country’s problems ‘fixed’ would do well to stand up and roll up their sleeves–it is not the government’s role to fix problems other than to protect our freedom via the military and courts, to assist local entities in cleaning up large scale disasters, such as the Hurricane Katrina, etc.–this is a country where the individuals, private businesses and industries, and charitable organizations do the work and solve problems. Our system of free enterprise, when allowed to operate without interference, is where problems are solved, inventions are created, cures are found, homes are built, and bad ideas are allowed to fail and die a natural death. That is what makes America unique! The over-stepping by this homeowner’s board and local/county government boards is typical of the recent gross infringement of individual rights. It is wonderful that so many readers are offended by this incident–and how wonderful that so many readers clamor to support this man’s right to fly his flag, for whatever reason.

  15. I am absolutely disgusted that this county is more concerned about aesthetics than the pride of this old man for having served his country in three wars. He fought in these wars to protect the freedoms of Americans, and one of these freedoms – that to fly the American flag – is being taken away. Living thousands of miles from this county, I’m absolutely interested in joining his daughter’s movement to block the county from bringing such ridiculous “charges” against him.

  16. Just as an update, I was very happy to see that this story has now received attention on the national news this evening. I hope that the HOA members gets every bit of harsh publicity that they deserve.

  17. This is an outrage- Thank you for bringing this great man’s story to our attention.

    And thank you for your kind comments on my blog- We are doing much better now. Thank you…

  18. Its shamefull that there are people in America who act like this. This man will fight for his colors. I hope he shoots the HOA members in the head.
    Disgusting F **** ! ! !

  19. When petty-little-people are given a little power, they sometimes use it just to show that they are in control. Honor Col Barfoot; don’t abuse him.

  20. Are the HOA Americans???? Even if this man is NOT a veteran, he has the right to fly the flag on his property. We have always loved our flag(can you think of a more attractive one?); we fly one out front and one in our backyard as well. My husband happens to be a much decorated Vietnam vet, but we would proudly fly these flags regardless. How shameful and disgusting for “Americans” to behave this way-they do not deserve to live here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.