I watched a news report this week when President Donald Trump gave Staff Sgt. David Bellavia the Congressional Medal of Honor, the first living Iraq War veteran to be so honored. It reminded me of another Medal of Honor winner who actually received more notoriety for something else he did.
Van T. Barfoot, who lived in Henrico County, Virginia, received an order from his Homeowners Association (HOA) to remove his 21-foot flagpole he had erected without their approval. He began flying his flag on that pole on Veterans Day 2009.
It would have been okay to fly the flag from a pole mounted on his house. The HOA didn’t have a rule against flagpoles, but they turned him down for “aesthetic reasons.” They relented when a public outcry in favor of Barfoot and his flag embarrassed them.
It turns out Barfoot had quite a story. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940 and on May 23, 1944, he set out alone to flank German machine gun positions near Carano, Italy. He advanced safely through a minefield, and then single-handedly took out three enemy machine gun positions that had been raining gunfire on his fellow soldiers. He returned with 17 prisoners of war.
Not satisfied, he destroyed three German tanks that had been sent to retake the machine gun positions.
Given the scope of World War II, his heroic feats didn’t make the news at the time. But later, when his story was told, he was given the Medal of Honor. He retired, after also serving in Korea and Vietnam, as a colonel.
The Declaration of Independence, whose signing we celebrate in a few days, reminds us that “we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Although it’s taking the verse out of context, we love the Scripture that says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17 KJV).
Enjoy your freedom. It’s people like Van T. Barfoot that helped to guarantee it.