Veteran honored for six decades of service

American Legion Post 79 honored Dave Lake, a U.S. Navy veteran and longtime Snoqualmie resident on Thursday, March 13. Lake served his country in World War II and Vietnam, and has been serving his community as a member of the Legion for 60 years.

At the ceremony, Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson and North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing praised Lake, who has spent decades working to help veterans and children.

"Whenever people need help, he's willing to step up to the plate," Post 79 Commander Steve Fenton told the Valley Record. "He's very passionate about our military and veterans and the programs we champion."

The American Legion is an organization of veterans of the United States armed forces who have served in wartime. The Legion, which now has almost three million members, was founded in 1919 by veterans returning from Europe after World War I.

Lake was touched by the community's recognition of his service.

"It makes you feel kind of good deep down inside that people think that much of you," he said.

A member of what's often called "The Greatest Generation," Lake has volunteered countless hours to support food banks, Rainbow Girls, Boy Scouts and Little League as well as Boys State and Girls State, summer leadership and citizenship programs for high school students.

He and other Post 79 members are currently working on plans for a memorial in Snoqualmie to honor veterans.

Lake feels a strong connection to other veterans, and has fought to ensure their rights and benefits. He frequently visits ailing veterans and their families in hospitals The 85-year-old Lake is candid about his experiences at war.

"I wouldn't take a million dollars for what I've learned, and I wouldn't pay a dime to do it again," joked Lake, who said he spent "12 years and one day" in the service.

Lake was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania as an Apprentice Seaman, and took part in all operations from 1941 through 1945.

In 1945, a piloted suicide aircraft was nearly successful in attacking Lake's ship near Okinawa.

"Man, let me tell you something, them things scared you," he said. "We blew the warhead up, and the wings off of him, but the motor kept going, and it just went right across the ship. You could feel the heat, the flames."

He was six miles away from the site of the Baker Day test, in which U.S. forces detonated an atomic bomb underwater in July 1946.

"They told us to shield our eyes. That flash was something we'd never seen before," he said. "It tasted like lead."

"You're never the same," said Lake, on how war changed him forever. "You forget most of the bad things, but some of it you never forget. You're going to have flashbacks the rest of your life. I still do. Yet I don't think I had it near as bad as some of the others."

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