Tony Heiman flies a variety of flags in his front yard to pay tribute to the United States and veterans who have served the country. He alternates 10 to 12 flags in his front yard throughout the year. These are NASCAR flags and flags of U.S. states surrounding New Mexico. Heiman said he is proud to fly the Iowa state flag, which symbolizes the state in which he was born and the California state flag, which symbolizes where he grew up. He recently gave himself the nickname "Clovis Flag Man."
Heiman served in the U.S. Air Force from 1973 to 1976 and was honorably discharged in July 1976. He once did NASCAR racing for a hobby and still collects NASCAR memorabilia. On a sunny day Heiman can be seen working in his front yard or riding around town in his motorized scooter chair with his chiquaquas checking out the sights.
Why do you hang flags in your front yard?
Besides paying tribute to this great country and to our veterans I like all the beautiful colors — New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California. I like them all. I'll be outside watering the grass or cleaning up and see people look over and they wave. I've had one person stop because he knew I was a Vietnam veteran but normally people are looking ahead or they're looking down texting. They're not really paying attention to the flags but it doesn't matter to me because I do it for myself. I check out different flags for contrast. It seems like all the flags around New Mexico have nice colors to them and they surround the state I live in.
What was your main duty in the military?
I was a liquid fuel systems maintenance specialist. I basically maintained the fuel systems at military gas stations and fueled up aircraft like the F-111D and the F4 Phantom Jet and helicopters at Cannon Air Force Base and in South Korea.
What are three important things the military taught you?
I could have gone to college after high school. My stepdad was retired Air Force and he convinced me to go into the military so I joined the Air Force. Vietnam was coming to a close at the time and I learned a lot of respect for the government and I love my country so much. I learned how to be clean and decent and respectful to people. I grew up in a prejudice society back in the 1960s where black people were the N-word and it was different. It wasn't right. The military also taught me how to be organized. In the military we had to have our stuff in "ship shape" or we were in trouble. I learned how to fold my clothes, keep my stuff in order, keep my bed neat and that's carried on into my life. I was only 18 at the time but now that I'm 57 I still practice those good habits. My bills are paid and my house is clean. I think it's the way people should be.
Tell me about your NASCAR racing.
I started liking NASCAR back in 1974 when I went to my first NASCAR race in Riverside Calif. while in the Air Force. I started liking it more and more every year. When I got out of the Air Force I was married and got divorced. I started living with a girl who knew a guy who did stock car racing in Northern California. I started working pit crew for him and became interested more and more. I thought "Heck, I'll just build my own car." So I built my own car in 1983 and became a driver and drove from 1983 to 1985. I raced every Saturday night at the Lakeport Speedway in Lakeport, Calif. from May 1983 through September 1985. I won the Northern California Hobby Stock Championship in 1984. I eventually decided I couldn't afford it anymore so I sold my car, my trailer and my fire suit and just became I fan again. I miss it but I think I'm too old to drive anymore (laughing).
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy gardening, landscaping and doing home improvements. I like to collect NASCAR memorabilia as well. I've got two trees in my front yard that I got as two-inch tall seedlings. I brought them home and nurtured them and now they're seven feet tall after three years. I grow little rose bushes. I got a nectarine tree out front that I'm growing. It went from 1 foot tall to 6 feet tall. Hopefully I can get some fruit now (laughing). I just like my grass green and just enjoy seeing Mother Nature at work. I guess I'm a perfectionist and I think that came from the military. When me and my brother Paul Ulibarri moved in in 2002 this place was a shack. There were broken windows. There was trash everywhere. There was a dirt front yard with no fencing and no trees. My lovely landlady next door allowed us to do what we wanted to do. We started leveling the yard and putting fence up and planting grass and after 12 years it looks like it looks. I'll do as much landscaping as my heart and my knees and my back will stand because I'm getting older. I don't have anything else to do. I don't work because I'm disabled so I enjoy staying busy. I lost most of my NASCAR collectibles in a trailer fire back in 1987. I started collecting again when I came to Clovis in 2000.
How do you cheer yourself up when you're feeling down?
Mostly I'm by myself with my dogs so I take my dogs to the park on my scooter chair. I let them chase the ducks at Green Acres. I watch a lot of NASCAR when the season is going. I like to go around town and look at all the new stuff they're building like Hotel Clovis.
What are three things on your bucket list?
I would really like to reunite with my son Christopher. He was born in 1984 and I haven't seen him since 1997. I talked to him on the phone a few times about five years ago but I don't know where he's at. I don't know if he knows where I'm at but I'd sure like to see him. I'd like to go to Germany because that's my heritage. My last name Heiman is German. I've always liked the German people who I've met in this country. I'd like to travel to Japan, Italy, Spain and England too. I'd just like to go overseas again. Everybody wants to go to Hawaii and all that but that doesn't interest me. The only reason I haven't gone overseas recently is because it's very expensive. It would be nice to go to more NASCAR races too.
Name: Tony James Heiman
Hometown: San Bernardino, Calif.
Occupation: Disabled veteran
— Compiled by CMI staff writer Benna Sayyed