Aviation Museum dedicates Coast Guard exhibit

Marketta Davis
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Standing among the crowd in front of a display of memorabilia Tuesday, retired Cmdr. Lonnie Mixon looked upon his own Guard Coast ribbons and medals at the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Mixon, along with fellow Coast Guard members, distinguished guests and museum patrons, was part of the first group to walk through the Aviation Museum's newest display, the Coast Guard Aviation exhibit.

"Generally, a long time ago, the Coast Guard was not recognized for very much," Mixon said. "We'd just go out and do our job and that was it."

"And then when they started this museum ... we had a little small cubby hole over there. And it was just nice to be recognized. And then, all of a sudden, there's this. To see so many people involved is just heartwarming, really."

Mixon served for 22 years between 1951 and 1973. His face can be seen on one of the walls in the exhibit alongside his fellow Coast Guardsman.

When asked how he felt about his contributions being showcased in the exhibit, the retired commander said it was a humbling experience to be included in such a wonderful event.

Vice Adm. John Currier, Naval Aviation Museum board of directors, said the exhibit represented to him a recognition and honor of the Coast Guard's roots.

"Pensacola is the 'Cradle of Naval Aviation,'" Currier said. "Naval aviation is composed of Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard aviation. We all wear the same wings."

"So since we all started here, this really is where we look back on our roots from a career perspective."

The vice admiral said for him to be at the exhibit dedication and see the Coast Guard receive adequate representation as one of three components that make up naval aviation is special.

The exhibit covers approximately 10,000 square feet of space in the Aviation Museum's Hangar Bay One and includes 100 years of Coast Guard history in the form of artifacts, models, uniforms, medals and ribbons.

As an attending enlisted Coast Guard member, Lt. j.g. Eric Schwartz, 26, said it was exciting to have much more Coast Guard representation in the museum.

"It's such a huge setting," Schwartz said. "The whole exhibit is great and to have a Coast Guard exhibit in a national museum is really nice."

Sporting his WWII cap and Coast Guard jacket, swarms of museum goers crowded Seaman 1st Class Jack Drew, 90, who served on the cutters Crawford on convoy duty in the Atlantic and Caribbean, the U.S. Naval Air Station at St. Lucia and the WSC-711.

While Drew only served four years in the Coast Guard, the vivid memories he has of his service for his country made him proud to be at the Museum's new exhibit dedication.

"I had some good times in the Coast Guard, Drew said. "This exhibit is a wonderful addition to the museum."

Also in attendance was Lt. Gen. Duane D. Thiessen, president and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, who said he was delighted to be a such a remarkable event.

"The Naval Aviation Museum Foundation is very proud to be a part of this effort to celebrate our United States Coast Guard," Thiessen said.

"They stepped up. They were part of the mission, they were part of the process."

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