Realigning Priorities on Memorial Day

With a late father who served proudly during WWII, and an (ex)stepson who’s an active duty Marine, I’m aware of what kinds of sacrifices men and women make, to serve our country in the military. Apparently, it’s easy for many Americans to forget just how important that service is, and exactly WHAT these brave men and women are fighting for. Let me make this very simple. They fight for our rights. Our right to disagree with our government. Our right to speak out about what we think. Our right to worship as we please – or not worship at all, if we so choose.Recently, a WWII veteran in Virginia made the national news, as he was threatened with legal action for erecting a 21-foot flagpole in front of his Virginia home, to fly an American flag. After his case received national attention, the pinheads with his homeowners association backed-down. They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble, had they simply done a little research into who this man was, and what he’d done in WWII. He passed away last month. I’m sure the homeowners association will waste no time in getting his flagpole removed. Which is a shame, for it should remain standing as a reminder of a great American and his sacrifice. Today I received an email from a friend, that detailed his story. I’d like to share it with you, here.

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You might remember a news story several months ago about a crotchety old man who defied his homeowners association and refused to take down the flagpole on his property and the large flag that flew on it. Now you can find out who, exactly, that old man was.

On June 15, 1919, Van T. Barfoot was born in Edinburg — probably didn’t make much news back then. Twenty-five years later, on May 23, 1944, near Carano, Italy, Van T. Barfoot, who had enlisted in the US Army in 1940, set out to flank German machine gun positions from which fire was coming down on his fellow soldiers. He advanced through a minefield, took out three enemy machine gun positions and returned with 17 prisoners of war.

If that wasn’t enough for a day’s work, he later took on and three German tanks sent to retake the machine gun positions.

That probably didn’t make much news either, given the scope of the war, but it did earn Van T. Barfoot, who retired as a colonel after also serving in Korea and Vietnam, a Congressional Medal of Honor.

What did make news was a neighborhood association’s quibble with how the 90-year-old veteran chose to fly the American flag outside his suburban Virginia home. Seems the rules said a flag could be flown on a house-mounted bracket, but, for decorum, items such as Barfoot’s 21-foot flagpole were unsuitable.

He had been denied a permit for the pole, erected it anyway and was facing court action if he didn’t take it down. Since the story made national TV, the neighborhood association has rethought its position and agreed to indulge this old hero who dwells among them.

“In the time I have left I plan to continue to fly the American flag without interference,” Barfoot told The Associated Press. As well he should. And if any of his neighbors still takes a notion to contest him, they might want to read his Medal of Honor citation. It indicates he’s not real good at backing down.

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This Memorial Day, let’s pause a moment and think about our veterans – those still with us, those that died in service to our country, and those that served but are no longer with us. And let’s honor them, for their sacrifices, their courage, and their honor. We simply will never be able to do enough for them. But we can try.

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