16 November 2011

Remember that Tough Ole Coot in Virginia Who Refused to Lower Old Glory...?

"Leadership is about submission to duty- 
not elevation to power"

Ever met an actual hero before?

Here's your chance...

You might remember a news story that began a couple years back, re. the 'stubborn' old man who defied his homeowners association, refusing to take down the 21-foot flagpole and full-size US flag he'd recently erected on his property.

A little bit of background might help you understand his point: the man in question was born Van T. Barfoot -a Choctaw Indian, actually- in Edinburg, Mississippi on June 15, 1919. 

Twenty-five years later, a world away near Carano, Italy, the lanky, 6'4", Van T. Barfoot -who enthusiastically volunteered to enlist in the US Army in 1940- was looking to outflank Nazi machine gun positions which were raining-down lead upon his fellow soldiers.

His unit had been battered in amphibious landings at Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio. But nicknamed the "Minefield Warrior" by his men, Barfoot's resourceful memorization of minefields and other Axis defenses while on night patrol made him extremely valuable. With the Americans pinned-down by withering enemy fire outside Anzio on May 23. 1944, Van T Barfoot requested and subsequently received permission to advance through the minefields that lay at the foot of the German defensive position on his own. 

Working his way through the mines and then down the Wehrmacht's defensive line, he single-handedly eliminated three gunner's nests, hopping right into the trench with a tommy gun once, where a whole (shocked) company promptly surrendered to him.  Lt Barfoot returned to American lines with 17 fresh German POWs in tow. 

Later that same day, the young Lieutenant directly confronted a German tank column, fearlessly stepping out into the middle of the street with a bazooka and putting a big hole in the lead Tiger (heavy) tank @ 75 yds. 

Spooked, two more behind it then bailed for the flanks as the massively outgunned Barfoot had endured a vicious armored counter-attack upon his freshly gained positions. This was accomplished with little more than sheer audacity

Afterwards, Lt Barfoot slung two injured commanders he happened-upon across over his shoulders, carrying them a mile to safety...

Even all that didn't make much news back then, given the overwhelming scope and scale of WWII, but those historic acts of gallantry did earn Van T. Barfoot -who retired as a colonel after also serving in Korea and Vietnam as a helicopter pilot- our armed forces' highest award, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

This astonishingly brave man also wears Silver and Bronze Stars for 'valor in the face of the enemy'- in-addition to three (!) Purple Hearts.


What did make the national news though was when a 90-year-old Van T Barfoot erected a simple flagpole in 2009. His suburban Virginia homeowners' association only allowed 'house-mounted brackets', locking horns with Barfoot over the issue.

What were they possibly thinking... anybody can tell you that 'backing down' against principle is not how it works with this one: the discrepancy was on it's way to court, and eventually had Senators and others weighing-in on his behalf. In the end, it was the Sussex Square homeowners' association who backed down in December, 2009.... and the flag still flies.

Nothing less than an inspiration to us all... 

May God Bless You, sir