The American flag is a symbol of freedom in the United States and to American troops worldwide, it is a symbol of what they are fighting to protect. It waves proudly in front of homes across the United States, but less than five minutes from Fort Rucker, Air Force veteran Patrick Harmon was told by his landlord to remove his flag or face eviction.
"I'm not taking my American flag down," Harmon said adamantly. "Do you want to put a disabled veteran and his family on the streets because of an American flag?"
Because his apartment at the Rucker Boulevard Apartments is within minutes of Fort Rucker, the home of Army Aviation, Harmon was understandably stunned by the request from his apartment manager.
"That's all I have left. I don't get to wear my uniform anymore. I don't get to serve my country anymore. I feel like half a person," he said tearfully.
Harmon asked the manager to show him documentation he wasn't allowed to display his flag. He was given a copy of this lease agreement, with section 16 highlighted, stating, "Tenants are strictly prohibited from displaying any signs on the lease premises."
The American flag isn't considered a sign, he argued. According to section 8j of the United States Flag Code, "the flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing."
Harmon is most surprised this is happening in Enterprise, a city with close ties to the military. He said he passes the Welcome to Enterprise sign, which boasts being a Retiree Model City, on his way home from Fort Rucker, so it's difficult to know less than two miles down the road, his apartment complex would wound a veteran more than any war ever could.
"If you want to hurt a vet, to me, that's how you hurt one. You can shoot me all day long, but take my flag and my country away ... that means everything. The American flag, to me, means everything," he said. "It's the greatest honor to be able to serve that flag. The American flag was there when I enlisted and said, ‘I will defend you.'"
The property manager declined to comment on the issue.