Veteran Mike Patke, who volunteers and teaches around Anza, began in service to his country as a U.S. Army fuel and electrical systems repairman as a teenager.
He enlisted in June 1975, 36 days after the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War. This event marked not only the end of the war, but the beginning of the formal reunification of Vietnam under Communist rule.
Patke’s basic training took place at Fort Jackson Military Installation in South Carolina. He was honorably discharged as a private first class May 29, 1977.
“I wanted to be a man at 17-years-old, and exchange my Boy Scout uniform for an Army uniform,” Patke said. “I came from a large family of seven kids. I was No. 2 with an older sister, four younger brothers and a younger sister. My parents had to sign a permission slip for me to enlist. I didn’t finish high school and at that time even a G.E.D. wasn’t necessary to enlist. I did, however, get one after I got out and started college on the G.I. Bill.”
After his basic training at Fort Jackson, Patke’s adventures began as he was transferred to Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland for advanced individual training school, then it was off to Mannheim, Germany, with the 1st Maintenance Battalion to support a tank battalion. For the last eight months of his enlistment, he was transferred to Kitzingen, Germany, to the 3rd Infantry Division with the same job.
As a fuel and electrical systems repairman, he performed direct support and general support maintenance on the fuel and electrical systems of wheel and track vehicles, troubleshooting automotive systems and managing battlefield damage assessment and repair.
“After my schooling in Aberdeen, most of my class was sent to Turkey, while I was held back as an assistant instructor until I received orders for Germany. While I was in Mannheim, I was temporarily assigned to drive colonels and generals in an armored personnel carrier, called A.P.C. for short,” Patke said.
Upon his discharge in 1977, he went to work at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center in California.
“I worked with the EOD – explosives ordnance disposal – sweeping the north ranges of live ordnance that remained from as far back as 1945. We would locate the explosives, flag them and then come back to either blow them up in place or load them on a truck and detonate them together in a safe location,” he said.
Patke moved to Anza around 2009.
“I didn’t know anyone here and no one knew me,” he said. “My baby brother, who lived in Hemet, said he wanted me to check out this church in Anza called Living Hope. From the first time I was there I felt like I was home, in fact I told Pastor Kevin Watson at the time, ‘I feel like I am home.’”
Patke has been involved with the church and the Anza community ever since.
He met his wife Kimberlee in Hemet in 2017, and they married in Anza Aug. 29, 2018. Together they serve the people of Anza in many ways.
“I have been very involved with the community, including the food ministry of the F.U.N. Group and the Fishes and Loaves end-of-the-month free community dinners. I started Chair Boundless self-defense classes about six years ago at the Community Hall, and it has grown into an international program that includes South Korea, Germany, as well several states here in the U.S,” Patke said.
He is the founder of NRG Martial Arts and Well Being. His Chair Boundless – Freedom through Mobility classes are designed to teach people with “handicaps” to become “handicapable,” as he said, through self-defense lessons.
Patke also collects used or unwanted medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers and even adult diapers to disperse to those in need for free.
“I am a board member for the Boys and Girls Club, the F.U.N. Group, Living Hope Christian Fellowship Church and currently the president of the Anza Community Hall board. I started the Legacy Home Hospital equipment donation program and am currently creating a nonprofit for ChairBoundless and Legacy,” he said.
Patke continues his good deeds all throughout the Anza Valley and will for many years to come. He is just getting started, he said.
Diane Sieker can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.