JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A World War II veteran and longtime pastor celebrated his 99th birthday on Tuesday.
Pastor Howard Flota, of Jacksonville, was stationed in Tokyo during the allied occupation of Japan at the end of the war. There, he actually got to know Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who he described as "a very pleasant, nice fellow."
"He came to the headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, when I was in Tokyo," Flota explained. "I kept the vehicles running for all the corporals, sergeants -- you know, motor pool. I was the sergeant over the mechanics. So, we got to meet a lot of good people and they brought their Jeeps in and (I) had a good chance to see them."
After the war, his service continued back at home as a pastor for 60 years. He said being the pastor of his church was one of the greatest highlights of his life.
"Well, to be a pastor, you have to have a desire, a desire to see people change their life," Flota said. "I just keep telling all of you to keep living for Christ. If you don't know Christ, turn to Christ, get in a good church. If you live right, you'll be able to help a lot of people."
Friends and family gathered Tuesday at Windham Lakes Retirement Home in Mandarin to give Flota a fitting tribute on his birthday -- one shy of 100. During the celebration, there were kisses given, pictures taken and a salute to a member of what's known as "The Greatest Generation."
On his special day, Flota shared with News4Jax how much he has to be grateful for.
"It's a great country, and I have a great family. And I don't think anybody needs to worry about this country," Flota said. "I love this country and I love all my family and I love all my people and I love Jacksonville, Florida, very much."
Happy birthday, Pastor Flota, and thank you for your service!
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