Fact Check

Banned Old Flag

Has Medal of Honor recipient Van T. Barfoot been barred from flying the U.S. flag outside his home?

Published Jun 2, 2011

 (Getty Images / George D. Lepp)
Image Via Getty Images / George D. Lepp
Medal of Honor recipient Van T. Barfoot is barred from flying the U.S. flag outside his home.

Van Barfoot was briefly barred by his local homeowners' association from erecting a flagpole outside his home back in 2009. The situation was quickly rectified, however, and Barfoot has since passed away; hence the appeal cited above entreating recipients to support his cause is now outdated.

Col. Vance T. Barfoot, veteran of three wars, was told he had to take down his flag pole because of his homeowner's asociation — even though there is no clause addressing flagpoles in the contract! Pass this on to show your support for his right to fly the U.S. flag!

Van Thurman Barfoot was a retired United States Army officer who received the Medal of Honor, the United States military's highest decoration, for his actions in Italy during World War II where, as described in his Medal of Honor citation, he "single-handedly destroyed a set of German machine gun nests, killed eight enemy soldiers, took 17 prisoners and stared down a tank before destroying it and killing its crew — all in a single day. Exhausted by his herculean efforts, he still managed to move two of his wounded men 1,700 yards to safety."

In December 2009, Van T. Barfoot (then 90 years old) became the focus of a minor controversy when he was barred by his local homeowners' association from flying the U.S. flag on a 21-foot flagpole outside his home because the flagpole "violated the neighborhood's aesthetic guidelines":

The homeowners' association at Sussex Square community told Barfoot that the freestanding, 21-foot flagpole that he put up in September violates the neighborhood's aesthetic guidelines.

Barfoot had sought permission to install the pole shortly after he moved into the community — a complex of townhouses where the grounds are community property — last June. The board denied his request in July.

But Barfoot and his family say there is no provision in Sussex Square's rules that forbids erecting flagpoles. And for Barfoot, that's a cause worth fighting for.

"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," Barfoot said in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Mr. Barfoot contested the HOA's order and received support from local politicians, including Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb, as well as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. He won his case when the association dropped its request on Dec. 8, 2009, effectively ending the controversy.

In February 2010, the Virginia Senate approved a bill to bar homeowners associations from prohibiting display of the U.S. flag:

With no opposition, a Virginia Senate committee approved Sen. Richard Stuart's bill to allow homeowners to fly the U.S. flag.

The bill was prompted by a case in Henrico County last year, in which a homeowners association barred a 90-year-old Medal of Honor recipient from flying the flag on an upright flagpole in his yard.

The association told retired Col. Van T. Barfoot that he could fly the flag from an angled pole attached to his house, but that the upright pole was an "aesthetic" problem.

Stuart, R-Westmoreland, said that made him angry. His bill would allow homeowners to "properly display" the flag according to federal rules. A homeowners association that wants to ban the flying of a flag would have to prove that it would create "substantial harm" to the community.

"What I've tried to do with this bill is strike a balance between the interests of the individual and his or her right to display a flag and the community itself," Stuart said. "It's my belief this should certainly be a fundamental right, to fly the flag of your country properly in accordance with the flag code."

The Senate General Laws Committee approved the bill unanimously, with no questions and no one stepping forward to speak against it.

Van T. Barfoot passed away at the age of 92 on March 2, 2012.


Davis, Chelyen.   "Senate Panel Unanimously Passes Bill on Flying Flag."     The [Fredericksburg] Free Lance-Star.   4 February 2010.

Goldstein, Richard.   "Van Barfoot, Medal of Honor Recipient, Dies at 92."     The New York Times.   4 March 2012.

McKelway, Bill.   "Medal of Honor Recipient Draws Support in Fight for Flagpole."     Richmond Times-Dispatch.   3 December 2009.

FOXNews.com.   "Decorated Veteran, 90, Fights to Raise Flag in His Yard."     3 December 2009.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.