Mel Flake, naval officer veteran and resident of Ahwatukee Foothills, has experienced and seen a lot in his 75 years.
He is now a retiree and president of the Pecos Senior Center site council. However, Flake said his past experiences as a naval officer have helped shape him into the person he is today.
Flake was a naval officer from 1954-1962, and in September of 1957 he was ordered for active duty. He said that he went overseas because he was already a Seaman and that during this time; he had a wide array of jobs. He became a storekeeper and clerk for three months in supply. Then, Flake was switched over to become the dispersing clerk of the ship. Lastly, his job was to complete the payroll for the entire ship.
"The experience was by trial and error," Flake laughed.
He spent a year overseas from late 1955 until August of 1956. Flake said he came back because a destroyer ship was commissioned in Long Beach, Calif., after World War II. He also said that he spent six months patrolling off the coast of China during his experience with the Navy.
In addition, Flake said that when he first became a naval officer, he spent about six months patrolling in the Formosa Strait, which is now Taiwan. He said that during that time, United States had shipped patrolling in the Formosa Strait because residents from China and the U.S. we're arguing about the island. The disagreements, Flake said, even spilled into the Olympics because China wanted Formosa to be a part of China, while the people in Formosa wanted it to be a private island.
Currently, Flake has lived in Ahwatukee for the past six years and is enjoying his retirement. He has been a member of the veteran organization, the American Legion, and he continues to observe Veterans Day by celebrating with his friends or family.
"I belonged to the American Legion in California for over 30 years before transferring to Ahwatukee," Flake said.
Last year, to commemorate the holiday, Flake said that he, along with a few of his friends, rode out on a float in Mesa for the Veterans Day parade. In the past, he has celebrated Veterans Day by attending a local picnic or activities that were hosted by the American Legion.
Flake advises veterans to take advantage of all the benefits that are available after service. He enjoys that veterans can become involved with schooling, education and on the job training programs. He said that veterans should especially take advantage of the VA health care because it is a great medical system to be a part of.
• Kirsten Hillhouse is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.