OKEECHOBEE — Veteran Ron Mixon was born and raised in Okeechobee. He was what they called a “sole surviving son,” and his father had a small business here in town. This made Mr. Mixon exempt from the draft, but several of his friends had been drafted.
“Okeechobee was a much smaller town then, and my friends and I would get together and talk about it before they actually went into the military. I was going to an electronics school in Tampa after I graduated from high school, and several of my friends — close friends — decided to go ahead and enlist in the Army, spend their 18 months and get it over with. Unfortunately, three or four of them came back in pine boxes,” he said. “And, I have a very, very soft heart. I felt like I was dodging the whole thing, and there they gave their lives. I shed some tears over it, and I shared with my parents that I couldn’t deal with it, so told them I was going to enlist in the military.” It caused a big rift between him and his parents when he chose to do that, but he felt he had to do it, he said.
He enlisted in the Air Force in 1969 with a friend on the buddy system, but when it came time to go in, his friend got cold feet and did not end up going with him. He went to San Antonio in October 1969 for basic training at Lackland Air Force Base.
All his life, he has tried to be a leader, not a follower. He was class president, student council president and all those things in high school, and he said it must have shown somehow when he was in basic training because he ended up being a squad leader. He truly loved the military, he said. When they graduated from basic training, he was chosen by his military buddies to be most likely to be the lifer of the whole bunch — a 20-year man.
He left there and went to Sheppard Air Force Base, where he was placed in a civil engineering squadron. His preference was to go into something else, and his highest score was in administration, so he thought they would put him there, but they must have seen his “resume” when he enlisted and saw that he had experience with heavy equipment and welding from when he worked with his dad. They decided they needed him in civil engineering, and he spent two and a half years at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tuscon.
He really did not feel like he was doing what he needed to do to participate in the war. “I wanted to go to Vietnam,” he said. He put in papers requesting to go to Vietnam, and he said he guessed they thought he was crazy, and they ended up sending him to Anderson Air Force Base in Guam for six months.
He worked on the flight line in Guam. To some degree, it helped him feel like he was participating in the war. He was on the flight line. The B-52s would come there to refuel, have their bombs loaded, stuff like that, he said. From Guam, they would go to Vietnam. “I remember being there at Christmas, and you would get the news a day late in Guam. They were telling the United States there was a cease fire, but there wasn’t a B-52 on the flight line Christmas Day. Let’s put it that way.” That was as close as he got to Vietnam, and to this day, he feels it wasn’t enough. When the Vietnam-era groups meet and he is invited, he never goes, because he does not feel he is worthy. He does not think his service was enough. “It doesn’t matter what people say,” he said.
After his tour in Guam, he came home and served the remainder of his time back at Davis-Monthan in Tucson. There were times you would retest for your next promotion, and he never felt they were scoring people fairly. People had points added to their scores for different reasons. He ended up leaving the military as an E-4 sergeant.
He went to work in the Cyprus Pima Copper Mine in Arizona as a welder. He met his wife, Lori, there and after they married, they lived there for about 13 years. After the copper mine closed, Mr. Mixon worked for UPS for a couple of years but has always had a love for heavy equipment and welding, so he decided he wanted to move back to Florida. “That did not go over real big with my wife,” he said.
They sold their home in Tucson and moved back to Okeechobee where they have been ever since. Mr. Mixon worked for U.S. Sugar for 13 years until they closed down, and then he went to work for the South Florida Water Management District as a welder until he retired. They Mixons have two sons, Scott and J.D.
Scott retired from the Air Force after 21 years of service. When it came time for him to decide what to do with his life, his parents were not able to send him to college. They said they could help him, but he would have to work for the rest. His dad suggested he go into the service, and that’s what he did. “He fulfilled my dream,” said veteran Mixon. He was a crew chief on KC-135 refuelers. “They refueled all the jets going to all the things you could imagine in those 21 years,” he said.
J.D. works for the Gilbert Company. “He’s quite a young man. He’s a Kiwanis member. He’s a Shriner. He’s Masonic Lodge member. We’re very active with the Adam Bryant Regatta,” said Mr. Mixon.
The Mixons have three grandchildren — two boys and a girl.