Vietnam Vet Wins Two Decade Long Legal Fight over Displaying Old Glory

| March 18, 2019

CBNNews reports that a Vietnam veteran has won his court battle and is allowed to display his American flag on a flagpole in his yard.

A Vietnam veteran reinstalled a flag pole in his yard after decades of trying to resolve a dispute with Wyndham Homeowners Association in Henrico County, Virginia.

Nearly two decades ago, the HOA group in charge of the Richard Oulton’s private community told Oulton, a medic during the Vietnam War, that the pole unveiling an American flag violated neighborhood by-laws.

When Oulton refused to take the flag down, Wyndham sought to settle the dispute by taking Oulton to court.

For Oulton, it was personal…

“For 749 Marines that I served with,” he said, “For their memory.”

Oulton had former Navy SEAL – VA Delegate John McGuire – on his side in the fight.

“The one thing that unites us in this country is that American flag,” said Del. McGuire, “And when I heard about that I was like, we got to get that American flag up.”

Category: Feel Good Stories, Media, Veterans in politics, Veterans in the news

Comments (49)

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  1. AW1Ed says:

    Outstanding.

  2. Commissqr says:

    Homeowners associations are the worst.

    Act like governments, have all the protections of private entities, and contractually able to ignore what otherwise would be civil and property rights. Not to mention frequently used as a mechanism for neighbors to go after neighbors based on petty personal grievances.

    • Comm Center Rat says:

      Agreed. The other factor is ever increasing HOA fees. The development I lived in almost tripled our monthly fee in just seven years of occupancy. The bastards even charged me nearly $600 in additional plowing costs during one winter with unusually heavy snowfall. We sold our condo six years ago and paid cash for our current home. One of the best financial decisions I ever made. I will never, ever again submit to HOA governance.

    • AW1Ed says:

      Your comment wound up in moderation ’cause you fat-fingered your name. No harm no foul, at least as far as I’m concerned, but it can delay posting until an Admin wanders by and approves it.

  3. MI Ranger says:

    It also seems that they can willfully change their by-laws and there is no such thing as “grandfathering” for such items that were previously allowed.

  4. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    Two words, FUCK HOAs. I’m so happy the Veteran won!

  5. AnotherPat says:

    Different perspective.

    The issue was about the Flagpole, not flying the Flag.

    In 2000, the HOA only allowed house-mounted flagpoles. He put up a 25 foot flagpole:

    https://www.richmond.com/city-life/news/article_22f2ff42-644c-5956-a0fd-cbe9f00c2f18.html

    “Lawyers for the Wyndham homeowner’s association and resident Richard J. Oulton made their final arguments Wednesday in a much-publicized trial over displaying the American flag.”

    “The association sued Oulton, a Vietnam veteran, and his wife, Ava, to take down a 25-foot flagpole in their yard.”

    “The association aruged that Oulton’s flagpole violated the Wyndham covenant, which they say allows only house-mounted flagpoles.”

    • AnotherPat says:

      If he really wanted to fly the Flag, he could have installed a house mounted flagpole. But he didn’t. He made a 25 foot “Look At Me, I’m a Veteran” Flagpole.

      As I shared, different perspective. He initially had to take down that 25 foot flagpole. Did he then put a mounted flagpole on his house and fly the Flag?

  6. Daisy Cutter says:

    I started attending HOA meetings – it was very painful.

    There was a high percentage of time dedicated to figuring out condiments and food offerings for the next meeting and annual picnic.

    The meeting got hung up on hog dog buns. They knew how many hot dogs they were going to have but didn’t know how many bags of buns they needed since the numbers were different than the packages of hot dogs.

    All the while, I keep saying to myself “Oh no, I think I’m actually going to weigh in on the hot dog bun dilemma – all in an effort to keep it moving along.”

    So I did. I then became the go-to guy for all hot dog related issues. They needed someone to do the hot dog bun run and buy them at Sam’s Club. I then raised the issue that it was supposed to rain on the day of the picnic and I didn’t want to be stuck with a car full of buns since there was no overhead pavilion Plan B.

    Their answer: buns will keep for a month. Yeah, OK. I have plenty of places around my house to store hundreds of hot dog buns for a month.

    I told them I had to travel out of state, generously donated money to the cause, apologized that I couldn’t make it and backed out the door so fast I was a blur.

    Never been back. I had thought of inventing a circular dial-a-number that quickly calculates the hot dog package to bun package ratio.

  7. FatCircles0311 says:

    How are HOA’s still legal? They are terrible and nobody should have to be forced in one to buy a home period.

    • rgr769 says:

      HOA’s serve a legitimate purpose for people who want to live in a community with a certain look and set of standards. People buy properties within housing developments with them, in part, because of those standards. Some don’t want to live next to someone with junk cars in his yard and a deteriorating boat in the driveway. Don’t like HOA’s, then don’t buy a property governed by one. Apparently, the problem with this fellow is he wanted to fly his flag from a 25 foot flagpole, which was prohibited by the HOA’s CC&R’s. I would agree with his position if he was flying the flag from the house mounted flagpole authorized by the CC&R’s.

      • AnotherPat says:

        That’s the whole situation, rgr769.

        It had NOTHING to do with flying the Flag.

        His HOA never said he could not fly the flag.

        He wanted to fly his own PERSONAL flag once a year on top of a 25 Foot Flagpole instead of flying it on a house-mounted flagpole.

        And he probably could fly a flag on that house-mounted flagpole.

        But no…it had to be a 25 foot flagpole.

        He just comes across to me as an attention seeking “Look At Me” type…or to try to make a point to the HOA.

        Well, he “won” his “battle”. If he still has his law company or whatever it is he created, he may try to generate some business for financial gain.

        Hope he really is a Purple Heart Marine that he claims to be and not someone embellishing.

  8. 26Limabeans says:

    Should have got a ham radio license and invoked FCC rule PRB-1 to force them to allow a radio tower. Then hang the flag from it.

    • SFC D says:

      My former in-laws lived in a retirement community in Yuma that didn’t allow antennas. there were at least 3 flagpoles, 25ft+, with 2M 1/4 wave groundplane antennas on top.

  9. 5th/77th FA says:

    I knew it got awfully cold in some areas this winter past but did not realize that Hell froze over. I am actually in some sort of agreement with Larsi Boi. Damn a buncha HOAs. Was in one long ago, never again. SnL and baby girl are members in a high dollar ‘hood down south. Monthly fees would make a payment on a real, real nice truck.

    SnL (a lawer) likes to poke ’em in the eye with a sharp stick on occasion when they get extry teh stooopid.

    Good for the Vet and good on the courts. ’bout time the good guys won one.

  10. AnotherPat says:

    This is him. He is an attorney:

    https://www.americalawgroup.com/attorneys/richard-james-oulton

    According to his website:

    “In more recent times, he continued the good fight as “The Wyndham Flag Man” in a four year battle fought against the developer of Wyndham, a planned Richmond community, for the right of all homeowners to properly fly our American Flag atop a flagpole on Memorial Day”.

    An attorney who chose to violate a HOA covenant.

    Hopefully, others in his community will not think “Well, I want to display my nonworking car on cinder blocks on my front lawn..” or “I want a Pink fence surrounding my property” or “I want a statue of Winnie-The-Pooh displayed in my yard..”

    There are reasons those convenants were created. His HOA covenant may have been created before he moved in. If he did not agree to a house-mounted flagpole, he should had never moved to that community and should had reside in a place that was not govern by HOA rules.

    My two pennies.

  11. David says:

    Another view – in a city with poor or little zoning, an HOA can also be your only defense against unneighborly behavior. I remember a story in the Houston Chronicle wherein some folks in their long-time retirement home had a new neighbor who opened a race-car engine building school in his rear storage building and they were forced to put up with unmuuffled race engines until well into the evening. Eventually they had to sell to get away from the jerk… no zoning and no HOA to set limits. The HOA can be a pain in the neck… but it also can serve to keep life bearable. Not every neighbor is a good neighbor, and some need to be coerced to behave.

    • Outcast says:

      Most city’s have a noise ordnance as well as times they enforce them, here many years ago I was outside messing around in the garage with the tunes going and was a little after 9 when the cops showed up and requested me to turn my tunes down as a neighbor called in about it, course they never called when the other neighbors around here did it, course my relatives came from eastern Europe where as theirs came from Spain via Mexico, some thing to do with discrimination. Guess I could have claimed the fifth but at that hour that fifth was empty and in the trash. Dang neighbors just didn’t like old Rock and Roll or Country, ahh the good old days.

  12. SFC D says:

    The biggest problem with HOA’s is that they usually end up being run by some arrogant prick on a power trip, more often than not some little sawed-off asshat with a Napoleon complex. Very similar to what happens with family readiness groups.

  13. AnotherPat says:

    The link in the post does not work, so here it is.

    The title to the article is deceiving. It implied he was not allowed to fly the Flag.

    The truth is that he wanted to be able to fly the Flag on Memorial Day, i.e. run it up a flagpole once a year, so he violated his HOA covenant and built a 25 Foot flagpole just so he could do that in memory of his Marine Corps unit (so he said).

    His story just sounds so self-serving.

    “Vietnam Vet Wins 2-Decade Flag Battle: ‘The One Thing That Unites Us in This Country Is That American Flag”

    https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2019/march/vietnam-vet-wins-flag-battle-ending-decades-of-dispute-the-one-thing-that-unites-us-in-this-country-is-that-american-flag

    • 5th/77th FA says:

      Thanks for the “rest of the story” AnotherPat. Lawers! ’nuff said!

      rtr/gd/gabn

      • AnotherPat says:

        5th/77th FA:

        That story as well as other news media stories in the Richmond, VA area was not being fair to his community HOA.

        I bet if one drives thru his community, that they may see homes with the Flag being flown, i.e. flags that are in flag mounts on their homes.

        He wanted to fly a flag that supposely flew over a bunker that he occupied while stationed in Vietnam. That is what he said.

        And for some reason, it seems he can’t fly it on the home-mounted flagstaff, thus the reason for the 25 foot pole that has an engraving at the base of the flagpole.

        Can’t help wondering about his Service, i.e. did he serve in Vietnam, did he receive a Purple Heart, etc, all because of this distorted “flag” story…or is he embellishing…

        His story is just as bad as the Covington situation…or the Smollett situation…that there always is “The Rest of the Story” and that somehow, the truth has been twisted and distorted.

        He has painted himself as being a victim.

        rtr/godawgs

        • 5th/77th FA says:

          Always three sides to every story, his, theirs, and the truth.

          “And the Truth Shall Set Ye Free.”

          5 Truths that we share:

          The Dawgs are gonna Go!

          The Tide is gonna Roll!

          Army gonna Beat Navy!

          Life is Good!

          Aw1Ed tolorates me for the entertainment value? (I’m on thin ice and the thaw is coming)

          • chooee lee says:

            Just Saying

            Navy won 14 Army-Navy games in a row from 2002 to 2015, the longest winning streak in the history of the series. On December 10, 2016, Army snapped its 14-game losing streak against Navy with a 21–17 victory for the first time since 2001.
            Longest win streak: Navy, 14 (2002–2015)
            Current win streak: Army, 3 (2016–present)
            Latest meeting: December 8, 2018; Army 17, N…
            Largest victory: Navy, 51–0 (1973)

  14. Outcast says:

    It sure is funny, over 58,000 people of my age died, my neighbor was shot down as a medic in a medevac chopper, another friend who has passed was pilot of medevac chopper and twice flew his brother in law out of live fire zone, we had 2 tunnel rats that roamed the streets here, one has passed, living the horrors they met in the tunnels in their minds constantly and are many others here with PTSD and A/O. Now some Idiots seem to think that they can set their rules as to how I can live in my own property, say exactly how I can fly my flag and so on. I seriously doubt these better than thou’s ever fly the flag, go to a memorial service or even talk to any Combat Veteran let alone any Veteran. These do gooders only look at their self image and how much money they have or what their possessions are worth. What next, you can’t go visit your relatives there because your car does not fit their standards and degrades their community. I lost more because I saw it as serving my nation while I served my nation and since and yet have more now than they will ever have or that their money can buy. A/H’s move to Klunkifornation and build your fake self serving communities there and hopefully that nation there will split, I mean literally, off from my nation and become just another Island. I live in my house on my land that I paid for and outside the fence you can say what you want as to that out there, inside is mine and i say what is and what is not.

    • AnotherPat says:

      Outcast:

      You must have never lived in a community governed by Home Owners Association rules.

      No one told the guy named in the story to move to that Community. He MADE that decision.

      He was or is an attorney. He should have know better.

      Rules are rules. If he did not like the rules, he should have never moved to that community…or shoukd have left.

      BTW, he has already been reprimanded in Virginia for not following correct legal procedures when it comes to being a lawyer in Virginia.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      I live in a small neighborhood and have never had any kind of issues with anyone at all about putting up my flag on appropriate holidays. But HOAs are notorious for not letting you do things like plant certain species of trees because the tree you choose doesn’t match their original design plans.

      I’m kind of viewing this guy as someone who just likes picking a fight, and picked one because he figured he’d win.

  15. Roh-Dog says:

    Out of nowhere the cardinal rule of Grunt’ing came to me, there ain’t a problem that can’t be cured with the proper application of C4.
    What was this post about again?

  16. Ken.Taylor says:

    And so there you have it. Stupidity challengers ridicules behaviour.

  17. Mike says:

    I built a house in an HOA near a beach. I fished just about every morning April to November. Then they roped of the beach and banned fishing from it a couple of years after I built. Unilaterally changed the rules.
    I sold out, bought some acreage, built my own pond. Fish whenever I want, and no license required.
    BTW, the house has great fields of fire in all directions.

  18. 26Limabeans says:

    Get off my lawn.

    • AnotherPat says:

      Another MISLEADING story.

      He has ALWAYS been allowed to fly the American Flag.

      He has NEVER been denied that.

      His HOA NEVER said he could not fly the Flag.

      The REAL story is that he wants to fly HIS Flag, supposely one that flew over a bunker in Vietnam.

      He wants to fly that flag every Memorial Day using a 25 Foot Flagpole that he built. He wants to be able to hoist a Flag rather than display a flag on a house mounted flagpole.

      A Bankruptcy Lawyer who chose to break a rule from Day 1. All because of self interest. And broke rules working as an attorney in Virginia and was reprimanded.

      IMHO, I don’t think he “cares” about “his” Marines. In 2003, the issue was about flying HIS flag on his 25 foot flagpole for troops in Iraq. His story keeps changing to fit HIS needs.

      anotherlookatme

      • 26Limabeans says:

        Back in the late seventies I would pass by a house with a tattered and weathered flag on a hand made flagpole. Some people would occasionally comment about how awful it looked. Many years later the house burned down with the veteran owner perishing. As the story unfolded it
        was learned that the flag was the burial flag of the man’s brother who was kia. The local vets gave it a proper disposal.
        Since then I have never questioned the condition of a flag in someones yard.

        • AnotherPat says:

          The truth about the story is that the guy built a 25 foot flagpole without getting approval from his HOA.

          He was an attorney. He read the covenants of his HOA. He chose to ignore those rules.

          He also broke legal rules when it came to being an attorney.

          Shows a bit about his character.

  19. AnotherPat says:

    MORE Background info on the misleading story, i.e. the rest of the story.

    Looks as if he put up that flagpole WITHOUT first getting approval from his HOA. In other words, he BROKE THE RULES.

    What a great example to set for young folks (sarc).

    “In Re: The Wyndham Foundation, Inc. v. Oulton, et al., 56 Va. Cir. 217 (Henrico Co., 2001), decided prior to the enactment of the federal law and the recent Virginia law, the property owners’ association filed suit against homeowners who had erected a large flagpole on their lot without obtaining prior design approval, as required by the association’s governing documents.”

    “The association argued that the flag pole did not comply with the association’s regulations regarding the erection of structures. Upon finding that the pole was a “structure” that was indeed regulated by the covenants and restrictions, the court readily concluded that the flag pole had been erected without the required preapproval from the association and, therefore, should be removed.”

    https://www.virginiacommunityassociationlaw.com/2011/02/articles/covenant-enforcement/will-your-association-fly-into-trouble-with-the-new-virginia-flag-law/

    • Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

      The very next case in that article AP suggests the difficulty with such regulations on a state by state basis however largely due to the federal flag act.

      In 2007, Mr. Tripodo erected a 16-foot flagpole in his front lawn in the neighborhood of BridgeMill, a large master planned community in Canton, Georgia (outside Atlanta). The homeowners’ association notified Mr. Tripodo that the pole violated the association’s covenants and that he should have submitted the structure for approval by the neighborhood architectural committee. Mr. Tripodo refused to remove the flagpole or to mitigate its visual effects by, as the association suggested, relocating it to his backyard, and the association began charging him $25.00 per day, for a fine that totaled $32,000 by the time the association filed suit (note that in Virginia, such charges would have been capped at $900). The association sued Mr. Tripodo for the fines as well as for an injunction to order him to remove the flagpole. It argued that the fines and injunction request were based on the pole, not the flag itself, an argument likely stemming from the fact that the federal flag law addresses flags but not supporting structures.

      The court did not accept that argument, stating that “the flag and the instrument for flying it are intertwined in the display of the flag, and the Covenants require association pre-approval for both.” The court proceeded to explain that the association’s regulation did not withstand scrutiny under the federal flag act because the association’s attempts to enforce restrictions on the flag pole amounted to attempts to enforce “restrictions that prevent the display of the American flag.” The court found that the association’s pre-approval process was “a purely arbitrary system with no specific time, place, or manner restrictions… (the association) is the sole arbiter of construction or modification plans, and it may withhold approval for any reason. By applying broad, varying, and subjective considerations, Plaintiff (the association) imposes unreasonable restrictions that are not necessary for protecting its interests.”

      Clearly HOAs will have some difficulty litigating the pole if it’s considered a component of displaying the flag under Federal law.

      I’m not an HOA fan, as a libertarian the very nature of HOAs is anathema to me.

      That said, I think in both cases one could argue that the need to place a special flag pole versus a house mounted pole is largely based on selfish, self-aggrandizing behavior. Classic “look at me” as you state elsewhere.

      When people join HOAs they do so for a reason, pretending later that they are suddenly above the HOAs authority when it suits them.

      So in this case I can see why the court allowed the flag and pole, but it smells off a bit as you suggest.

      • AnotherPat says:

        Thank You, VoV…

        Everything you wrote is what I was trying to point out.

        It’s not about the Flag not being able to fly in his community. His HOA never said he could not fly a flag.

        It’s HOW he wanted to fly his flag. He wanted to fly it on a 25 Foot flagpole that he constructed without first getting approval from his HOA for the construction.

        The news media issued a misleading story title. Not any different from the Covington incident reference Nathan Phillips being a Vietnam Veteran or that the students were falsely accused on instigating that SNAFU.

        therestofthestory

        • Daisy Cutter says:

          A relative of mine lives in a beach community and some houses are a block away from the beach with houses in between.

          Their HOA does not allow for flagpoles since it partially blocks the view of the beach for other.

          So, I can see it if it is not about the item on display, but whether it crosses over into another’s right of access, even if that access is a view.

  20. AnotherPat says:

    He has not been trying to fly the Flag for 20 years.

    In 1999, he flew the Marine Corps Flag and a Purple Heart flag using two portable flag stands. He asked his HOA if he could do that and they said no. Those were the only flags..no US Flag.

    He did it anyway. He admitted he knew about the HOA rules when he bought his 10,000 Square Foot, One and Half Acre property.

    The HOA then agreed to let him fly the Marine Corps flag and the Purple Heart flag on special days honoring Veterans.

    But what did he do next? He installed a 25 foot flagpole with a memorial at its’ base on his property without getting approval from his HOA.

    In 2003, he said he was prevented from flying the Flag to honor troops in Iraq, which is not true. He could have flown the Flag on a house-mounted flag pole.

    And now his story is about HIS flag that supposely was flown over a bunker in Vietnam.

    The news media got it wrong in their title to their articles on him. Similiar to the Army Times publishing the story about an E4 Army female Soldier of Muslim faith who said she was not allowed to wear her head cover, while in reality, her hair did not meet the standards of Army Regulation 670-1.

    therestofthestory

  21. radar says:

    I can’t believe this was still going on. I grew up in the West End of Henrico and remember this story when it was first starting.

    HOAs are the tool of Satan. I would never, ever again buy a home in an HOA neighborhood and subject myself to the caprices of a bunch of petty Stalin wannabes.

  22. docduracoat says:

    I see that you all hate your HOA.
    We can’t get le to serve on our HOA!
    Someone has to keep an eye on the management company, make sure our funds are not misused, and deal with problems as they come up.
    Our association does a good job, we pretty much beg/force/shame every homeowner to take their turn every few years.
    There are only 40 units here.

    Someone has to interview prospective owners and tenants, pick the colors to paint, evaluate competing bids for repair and maintenance, etc.
    We have had neighbors from Hell and the association has had to deal with them for the sake of the rest of us

  23. AnotherPat says:

    FINALLY…

    A News Media that got it right:

    “Virginia Vietnam Vet To Raise 25 Foot Flagpole In His Yard 2 Decades After Being Told To Take It Down”:

    https://wtkr.com/2019/03/20/virginia-vietnam-vet-to-raise-25-foot-flagpole-in-his-yard-2-decades-after-being-told-to-take-it-down/

    • Eo says:

      I get that he’s probably played this up, but why are you so salty about this?

      • AnotherPat says:

        Because of the misleading titles that other news media produced.

        Their titles made it sound as if the guy was not allowed to fly the American Flag for 20 years by his HOA, which is totally false.

        He was not allowed to erect a 25 foot flagpole. He was told by his HOA in 1999 that he could not fly a Marine Corps flag and a Purple Heart flag on some portable flagpoles. He did it anyway.

        Then he went ahead and put that 25 foot flagpole in his yard despite his HOA saying no. This time, in 2003, he said he wanted to fly the flag for troops in Iraq. He was told to take it down.

        He let go of the issue until 2018, where once again, he wanted to put up a flagpole, but time, it was to fly a flag for Marines in Vietnam.

        When news media twists a story, they may get folks who believe in flying the flag all riled up. The truth is that he has always been able to fly the flag. Just not on a 25 foot flagpole.

        That is why I am salty. False, misleading news article to get folks attention for nothing. WTKR got the news title right. Responsible jounalism.