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Col. Barfoot, WWII vet who fought neighborhood association over flag, has died

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Posted at 8:34 PM, Mar 02, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-05 17:38:12-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) – Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Van T. Barfoot passed away Friday morning at the age of 92, according to his family.

Col. Barfoot was stepping outside of his Henrico County home on his way to visit his daughter early Tuesday afternoon when he fell and hit his head on the masonry walk beside his famous flagpole.

As it turns out, he had suffered multiple skull fractures.

When he didn’t show up, his daughter came looking for him, said Van T. “Tom” Barfoot Jr. of Washington state.

“And she came in the house, lo and behold he had actually picked himself up and was cleaning himself up,” Barfoot said. “She took him to the emergency room and, from there, he was still cognitive and talking. He went in and got a CT scan. Afterwards, he slipped into a coma.”

There’s no doubt Barfoot, of Chocktaw Indian and English ancestry, was a rugged man.

“He was an amazing individual,” Tom Barfoot said. He had a tremendous desire to do what was right and to live.”

That’s what he was doing on May 23, 1944 during a battle near Carano, Italy. Then a sergeant, he took a bazooka to a tank fight and won it, then helped two of his injured men to safety – a mile away.

That’s why he was awarded the Medal of Honor. At the time of his death, he was one of 83 living recipients.

“He knew that people looked at him, having been a medal of honor recipient, as being a war hero,” Tom Barfoot said. “But he never saw himself as being a hero . . . Dad’s legacy was, to me, was family. He was all about his God, his family and his country, in that order.”

Col. Barfoot made headlines three years ago when he fought a battle with his Sussex Square Homeowners' Association, which wanted him to take down his flagpole. The HOA only allowed angled flag poles to be mounted on homes. Barfoot said that was a dishonor to the flag and insisted on raising and lowering his flag on a free-standing pole in his yard. The HOA eventually backed down.

After a very public battle, one that included a vote of support from the White House, the neighborhood association backed down and allowed the flagpole to stay.

“He was a strong-willed person, but he was a super-compassionate person,” his son said.

During the course of the flagpole fight, a Facebook page was established to support Col. Barfoot. To date more than 54,000 people have “like” the page Let Col. Barfoot Fly the American Flag.

The flag battle led to a new law in 2010 giving homeowners a little more leeway in terms of displaying the flag.

His son said it wasn’t about Col. Barfoot’s right to fly the flag – it was about the flag in general.

Col. Barfoot was a selfless man, Tom Barfoot said. “It was always about somebody else. It wasn’t about him. I’m proud to have him as my dad.”

Last year, during an interview with CBS-6, Col. Barfoot downplayed his fight over the flag and his service.

“I feel satisfied that I performed a usable service to my country,” he said.

Col. Barfoot’s son-in-law, Roger Nicholls, posted a message on Let Col. Barfoot fly the flag page:

“Dear friends, Dad passed peacefully this morning. We are so thankful for your love and support. If you would like to honor him a contribution to the Sitter-Barfoot Veteran’s Care Center 1601 Broad Rock Blvd Richmond VA 23224 would be a blessing. Sincerely, Tom, Margaret, Odell and Jim his children.

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