When a Fort Hood soldier was ordered to remove the American flag from his rental home, he was stunned. As his veteran neighbors learned about the demand, they were also none too pleased. That’s when they all decided to do something about the “absolutely disgusting and unpatriotic” request.
Sgt. Chris Link, an active duty Fort Hood soldier, found himself engaged in a different kind of battle than he had expected to find himself in when he joined the military. While living in the Falls of Fox Creek community in Killeen, Texas, Link received an email from Robert Woods, the homeowners association president, demanding the removal of the American flag hanging from a pole in his yard.
Even though the email acknowledged that “90% of the homeowners are retired military,” it instructed Link to remove the flag or face a violation and possible fine since community guidelines stated flags were not to be flown on poles and could only be displayed on Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, and Flag Day.
“Please understand 90% of the homeowners are retired military and when the four days of the year that we can display our flags, we do. So, please remove the flag so there will be no violation sent out with a fine attached to it,” the email said. [Source: KCEN-TV]
Rather than comply, Sgt. Link decided to defend his right to fly the American flag at the home he was renting, KCEN-TV reported. Although he did remove the flag from the pole, he mounted it to his house with brackets instead and educated the HOA manager of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, which states:
“A condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent an association member from displaying the U.S. flag on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use.
“States that nothing in this Act shall be considered to permit any display or use that is inconsistent with: (1) federal law or any rule or custom pertaining to the proper display or use of the flag; or (2) any reasonable restriction pertaining to the time, place, or manner of displaying the flag necessary to protect a substantial interest of the condominium, cooperative, or residential real estate management association.” [Source: Congress.gov]
After the HOA manager admitted that she was unaware of the federal law, she agreed not to fine Link in accordance with the act. Sgt. Link then turned his focus toward the HOA president. In an email, he informed Robert Woods of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005.
The HOA president had a much different reaction than the HOA manager, however. “You cannot display your flag. We have gone through this with a number of homeowners. Please remove it, or I will have your fine sent out today,” Woods responded.
Link argued that the HOA bylaws only reference having a flagpole and not displaying a flag, and he told Woods, “The issue is settled and frankly, I think it is absolutely disgusting and unpatriotic of you to try to bully the members of this community into not flying an AMERICAN flag.” But, Woods wouldn’t let it go, and the HOA president sent pictures to the homeowner who rented Link the house.
According to Woods, the homeowner wanted the flag removed and didn’t approve of its attachment to the house. “He said for you to remove the flag. When the owner of the property say[s] do something, you comply,” Woods told Link in an email. “Sorry you [feel] that we are unpatriotic. I served 28 years in the military, but the HOA has its own by-laws that will be followed and you will follow them like everyone else, no exception.”
As word of the dispute traveled around the community, some of Link’s neighbors were unhappy to hear that the HOA was saying the soldier was not allowed to fly the American flag at his home. “I don’t think anybody who has a home in the United States of America should be told they can’t fly the colors, the flag for that same country they’re residing in,” Clifford Devaul, a veteran and Link’s neighbor, explained. In an act of solidarity, some of the neighbors who supported Link’s right to fly the flag began flying flags of their own.
Sgt. Chris Link got a lawyer, and in a written statement to KCEN, attorney Josh Pearson said, “Sgt. Link has not violated any valid or enforceable provisions of the HOA bylaws.” And, it appears he was right. After Link was repeatedly threatened with fines for flying the American flag at his residence, it was later revealed that an active investigation was never opened. So, no fine was ever on the horizon, according to Associa Hill Country of Round Rock’s legal counsel, KCEN-TV reported in a follow-up story.
“That flag means more to me than a lot of people realize,” Sgt. Chris Link explained. “That’s the only reason I joined the Army … to fight for my country ’cause I love that flag; I love everything that flag stands for,” he added. “It is a federally protected right that we can fly the American flag in America no matter where you are,” Link furthered. “People have been obviously bullied into taking their flags down. Just stand up and fight for your right.” Link did just that, and he not only won the battle, he also educated others on their ignorance of the law. Job well done, soldier.