HOA denies Rock Hill disabled vet pole for American flag


By Andrew Dys

Gary Pittman outside his garage, a 1972 Dodge that he works on as a hobby and escape from his problems can be seen in the garage behind him.
Gary Pittman outside his garage, a 1972 Dodge that he works on as a hobby and escape from his problems can be seen in the garage behind him. aburriss@heraldonline.com

The Marine combat veteran who wants to raise a flagpole on which to fly an American flag on his property has been denied approval by the homeowners association of his neighborhood.

But Gary Pittman is vowing to build the flagpole anyway, and he’s preparing for another battle – this one in court.

Some fellow Marines are so mad, they are willing to help Pittman put up a 20-foot flagpole.

“This is crazy,” Pittman said Monday. “All I want to do is show my love for my country. I was in Charleston over the weekend, and in an HOA neighborhood there were flagpoles with American flags at so many houses.

“But I am not backing down; I am doing this anyway.”

Pittman wants the flagpole in his yard so he can fly the flag at half-staff for certain occasions, as well as going through the daily ritual of raising and lowering the flag.

“I fought for that flag,” he said.

Efforts to reach Todd Williams, president of the Norwood Ridge Homeowners Association, have been unsuccessful. Norwood Ridge is off Mount Gallant Road in northern Rock Hill.

Norwood Ridge residents respect Pittman’s military service, Williams has said, and that service has been part of the homeowners association’s discussions.

One concern some members had, he said, is setting a precedent that would allow other homeowners to fly flags or banners that might be considered offensive by some residents. Other factors are the size, location and other aesthetic aspects of the flag Pittman wants to display.

Pittman – a veteran of five combat tours of duty who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due to that service – plans to meet with a lawyer within days, after receiving a letter Monday from the homeowners association denying his request.

It remains unclear if that decision violates a 2005 federal law that allows unfettered flying of the American flag. The law does include caveats for associations and restrictions people agree to when buying property. Several people in other states have sued HOA groups over similar conflicts.

Pittman’s dispute with the homeowners association has garnered support from veterans and others. He met with York County Veterans Affairs officials on Monday, and has a bunch of Marine Corps veterans ready to assist with the flagpole.

“Once he gets advice from a lawyer, we have a group of guys ready and willing to help Mr. Pittman put up a flagpole that he believes is his right,” said Al Guest, a member of the Olde English Leathernecks Marine Corps organization and a Vietnam War combat veteran. “All Mr. Pittman wants to do is show his patriotism.”

The homeowners association letter asked Pittman if, rather than putting up a flagpole in his yard, he would form a committee to raise and lower the American flag from a community flagpole outside the entrance to the neighborhood.

The letter stated that the community flag – which had been in tatters two weeks ago when Pittman started his fight – would give a greater honor to service members.

Pittman scoffed at that idea. He wants to be a good neighbor, he said, but as a combat veteran, he sees maintaining his own flagpole as both his duty and his right.

“I just want to fly the American flag, and I have to go through all this.”