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Obama Spokesman: 'Silly' Not to Allow Vet to Fly Flag

WASHINGTON -- White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that it is "silly" to think that a 90-year-old Medal of Honor recipient is being asked to remove a flagpole from his front yard.

Retired Army Col. Van T. Barfoot, a World War II veteran, is fighting to keep the 21-foot pole at his suburban Richmond home. His homeowners association said the pole violates the neighborhood's aesthetic guidelines. It pushed back a deadline to remove it to Friday.

Gibbs said during a briefing that he hasn't spoken directly to President Barack Obama about the flap. But he said "the president believes -- I think all of us believe -- that the very least we can do is show our gratitude and thanks to somebody that served our country so admirably."

He went on to say that "it's silly to ... think that somebody that's done that can't have a flagpole and ... show the proper respect and appreciation that any flag deserves by flying that in their neighborhood."

Other supporters include U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Jim Webb, both Virginia Democrats. They and veterans groups have rallied behind Barfoot, who was awarded the lofty Congressional honor for actions including standing up to three German tanks with a bazooka and stopping their advance.

Warner is among those offering to help break the impasse with the Sussex Square homeowners' association, which voted unanimously to ask the senator's office's help in reaching a compromise.

In a letter last week, Webb urged the association to "consider the exceptional nature of Col. Barfoot's service when considering his pride and determination in honoring our flag."

The association in a statement said the dispute is not about the American flag but the flagpole.

Barfoot's fight also has lit up veterans bulletin boards and blog sites supporting him.

Barfoot won the Medal of Honor for actions while his platoon was under German assault near Carano, Italy, in May 1944.

He also won the Purple Heart and other decorations, and served in Korea and Vietnam before retiring from the service in 1974.

The Associated Press left a message at a number listed for the homeowners group early Tuesday seeking comment.

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