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Source: The Enterprise Ledger
Date: November 15, 2011
Byline: Jeremy Wise

Air Force veteran refuses to comply with flag removal request

ENTERPRISE, Ala. — When Patrick Harmon faced a medical discharge from the U.S. Air Force after 10 years of service, he requested to come to his “second home” of Fort Rucker.

Harmon, the son and grandson of men who were stationed multiple times at the installation, always appreciated Enterprise’s devotion to retirees and patriotic culture.

But the events of Monday have him questioning that latter part. That is when Harmon claims the manager of the apartment complex where he and his family live, Boulevard Apartments, asked him to remove an American flag hanging from his patio door.

Harmon, who as of Tuesday had yet to remove the flag, said the request caught him off guard given Enterprise’s dedication to the military.

“That’s what’s shocking about it. I thought this was a military-friendly community,” the retired staff sergeant said. “I just cried. It still chokes me up.”

Maybe that was because of the reason it was hanging in the first place.

“Veterans Day was always tough for me, and this Veterans Day, I was crashing really hard,” he said. “I lost a lot of buddies.”

To help him feel better, Harmon hung the flag and “sat on my porch and drank my coffee.”

On Monday, though, the apartment complex manager approached Harmon’s wife, Cynthia, and told her the flag must come down.

“I was speechless,” she said.

Patrick said the manager said staff had received a complaint about the flag, and showed them a copy of the lease preventing tenants from displaying signs.

The disabled veteran said the flag is not a sign, and in fact, the flag code says American flags must be treated as living things.

“It is not a sign,” he said, noting the sign clause was the only portion of the lease the manager said the flag violated.

Patrick said he has no intention of removing the flag, especially since no clause in his lease specifically prevents the displaying of a flag.

“I watched a widow receive a flag when I was in the honor guard, and I had to stand still during that. If I back down to this, I’ve failed her and I’ve failed (fallen brothers),” he said. “This was the flag I swore to protect, along with the Constitution.”

Neighbors have been in an uproar at the request, especially since many of them are military-affiliated, Patrick said. Some have even said they will display flags on their doors in protest of the request.

The Harmons said they have had issues with the landlords before, specifically when it comes to repairs, Cynthia said. Given this latest event, they plan to move as soon as possible.

“Enterprise is a model retirement city that prides itself on being a military-friendly community. If you’re a business, you need to honor the values of the community,” Patrick said.

The apartment complex manager declined comment Tuesday.

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