Flake: Veterans aren't victims
Ron Flake's military service nearly cost him his life. It did cost him a portion of each of his fingers. And he says he would do it all again.
"I was a volunteer," he said. "I wanted to go in the military. That was the life I wanted."
As America celebrates Veterans Day on Tuesday, honoring the service and sacrifice of veterans like Flake, he makes it clear that he doesn't believe the nation is indebted to him.
"That was what I chose for my life and I don't feel like anybody owes me an awful lot for it," he said.
In recent years, Flake said, veterans sometimes seem to be portrayed as victims -- an idea he strongly disagrees with.
"I don't think veterans are victims," said Flake, who graduated from the Air Force Academy and served 10 years before being granted a medical release. "I think veterans are on the whole more equipped to deal with life than most of us. I think we worked hard the past few years to develop this veteran-as-a-victim mentality that so many people have and I disagree with it."
Last Friday, Flake traveled to College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo., with another Carroll County veteran, Richard Keller.
Keller is among several veterans who have participated in a program at the college in which students accompany veterans back to the sites of their wartime service. The participating veterans were honored Friday with the planting of a tree and the dedication of a plaque bearing their names.
"They had lots of World War II guys," Flake said. "These are all guys in their 80s and older and absolutely competent and intelligent and enjoying life and the kind of people you want to be around when you're older."
Flake's father retired as a colonel in the Air Force. His oldest son also retired as an Air Force pilot.
"I'm proud of my service and I'm proud of the fact that my family has a history of military service," he said.
Flake said he believes his military background and combat experience prepared him well for life's challenges.
"I would do it again," he said. "I don't regret any of it. I've enjoyed my life since then."