HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — The story sparked national attention: Vietnam veteran ordered to take down the flagpole in his yard.
In 1999, the Wyndham Homeowners Association told Richard Oulton the pole with an American flag on it violated neighborhood by-laws.
When the case went to court, Oulton lost.
On the day he cut the pole down, Oulton said, “I’m standing in my front yard being told my American flag is a visual nuisance and I can’t fly it in support of the troops in Iraq. I think it’s horrible but I have to comply.”Fast forward to 2019, the Marine veteran just put up a new flagpole.
“This is something I just didn’t ever think was going to happen but I kept trying,” said Oulton.
For the Henrico man, flying the stars and stripes is about more than patriotism.
“For 749 Marines that I served with,” he explains, “For their memory.”
Oulton served in the 1st Battalion 9th Marines. During the Vietnam War, 1/9 sustained the highest casualty rate in Marine Corps history. They became known as “The Walking Dead.”
“The memories are always there. Unfortunately, they’re deep inside me and I can’t clear them out,” Oulton explained. That’s why he just wasn’t ready to give up on flying a tribute to the brothers he lost in combat.
So two decades after Oulton fought the first fight with his HOA, he battled again.
This time, he was side by side with Virginia Delegate John McGuire (District 56), a former Navy Seal.
“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.”
They spent the better part of a year working to convince the Wyndham Homeowners Association to let Oulton resurrect his flag pole.
The HOA in 1999 was under the control of the developer. Now, it’s at the hands of the homeowners.
“They asked us to poll our neighbors and we pulled all of the neighbors that were adjacent, nine houses and was 100 percent support,” explained Oulton. After two appeals, they convinced the homeowners association to let Old Glory fly. The flag from Oulton’s Vietnam bunker will make the first trip up the new pole.
“It’s one memory I’ve kept. It’s very important to me. It’s kind of a tattered now but…lot of memories,” says Oulton.
Adds Delegate McGuire, “Our men and women in uniform oftentimes risk their life or even sacrifice their life for freedom and I think the least we can do is get a flag pole up so he can remember his brothers.”
They hosted a cookout at Oulton’s home for hundreds of people on April 27 when the flag was hoisted into the air.