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Van Barfoot: A Patriot in Every Sense

Published: 3/12/2012

Van Barfoot (Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Army)Van Thomas Barfoot received the Congressional Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 23 May 1944, near Carano, Italy, while serving as an Army sergeant during World War II.

The account of his heroism on that day is detailed on the Congressional Medal of Honor website. Yet Barfoot, who died March 2 at age 92, may be better known for his fight to fly an American flag in his Virginia front yard, according to the Associated Press obituary which appears as a featured memorial on

The retired Army colonel, who fought in three wars, gained national attention in 2009 when he fought to keep his 21-foot flagpole at his Henrico County home after the homeowners association ordered it removed and threatened to sue him, per the AP obit.

The White House even entered the fray, with a spokesman for President Barack Obama calling it "silly" not to allow Barfoot to fly the flag.

The association later backed off, but Barfoot's fight eventually led to a state law that makes it tougher for homeowners associations to restrict the flying of the U.S. flag.

In the obit placed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Barfoot’s family calls him a patriot in every sense of the word.

The AP obit ends with a quote from a 1999 Times-Dispatch interview in which Barfoot said his close-knit, churchgoing family was his anchor.

"I like to tell about life without war stories," he said. "I've always had something more important in my life than war and the military."


This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She is the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.

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