Navy veteran Charles Roloff, the second-oldest member of Ahwatukee American Legion Post 64, has seen many Veterans Day holidays come and go in his 95 years.
Recently, however, he says the holiday, observed each Nov. 11, has gained more interest. That wasn't always the case, he said.
"I think they're observing it more and more now. At one time it seemed to come and go," said Roloff, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident since 1984, who spends many of his days at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center. "They're more interested in their veterans these days."
The local American Legion Post, which meets at the recreation center, has about 150 members, he said. Roloff served as an aviation machinist mate in the Navy from 1943-45, based out of Washington, D.C. during World War II. He came to Phoenix in 1964 after serving as a New York City firefighter.
"I was the one who kept the motors running. Somebody had to do it," he said. "I was very fortunate. I never got shot at, and I never had to shoot anybody."
He has three daughters, about a dozen grandchildren and a couple of great-grandchildren living in the area. This year, he plans to continue a tradition that he started about 13 years ago of speaking to school children about the history of the American flag. Roloff researched and compiled all the material for his annual presentation, called "The Evolution of the American Flag."
"I put it all together, you might say," he said.
On Tuesday, Roloff is slated to address a school assembly at Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School, 2720 E. Liberty Lane.
"Most people know the American flag, but how many know how we got it?" he said.
Veterans Day traces its history back to Nov. 11, 1918, when the Allied nations, including the United States, signed an armistice agreement that led to the end of World War I, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The observance initially was called "Armistice Day" but was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 to honor American veterans of all wars.