By Ron VandenBoom
A clearly emotional Machinery Technician First Class Lonnie Barnett faced his fellow Coast-Guardsmen Saturday to say farewell as he retires after 20 years of military service.
"That's quite a feat to serve this country for 20 years," said Chief Petty Officer Greg Hejl, commander of the Coast Guard's Loran Station north of Havre.
Barnett received a Certificate of Retirement from the Armed Forced of the United States of America recognizing him as being honorably discharged and thanking him for "duty faithfully performed."
He also received a Certificate of Appreciation from President Bill Clinton, commander in chief of the armed forces.
The certificate extended the president's personal thanks and sincere appreciation of the nation to Barnett for his years of service
"I honor your service and respect the commitment and loyalty you've displayed over the years," the certificate reads. "My best wishes to you for your happiness and success in the future."
Commander Hejl also extended his appreciation to Barnett for his work while stationed with the Havre unit and also encouraged him to speak highly of a Coast Guard whenever addressing young people who might be thinking of a career in the armed forces.
Hejl presented Barnett with a plaque from his fellow crewmen commemorating his time at Loran Station and congratulated him for a job well done.
Barnett, showing obvious emotion, told his fellow crew members and members of his family attending the ceremony, that he had spent the first four years of his military career in the Air Force, but the mission of the Coast Guard was what caused him to change services.
"Search and rescue, lifesaving," he said. "They do a lot of actual rescues."
Barnett told the crowd that he did not participate in a lot of rescues during his time in the Coast Guard, but in those cases where he did really made him feel good. He said he also had a good time at most of the places where he had been stationed and had the unique opportunity to see Antarctica.
"It's pretty grueling going out on some of those boat calls," he said. "But it's very rewarding when you go out there and save ... a pleasure craft or commercial fishing boat."
"It's a good feeling," Barnett said.
Barnett admitted that coming to Loran Station was "totally different," but "a good learning experience."
He said he had thought about staying in and trying for 22 years service, but when it finally came down to it, getting out was too much of a temptation to resist.
Barnett thanked his parents for all of the help they had been to him during the time he was in the Coast Guard and extended best wishes and good luck to the rest of the Loran crew.
A Montana native, Barnett plans on returning to Kalispell where he will take some vacation and travel to Washington and Oregon where he plans on doing some drag racing before trying to find work in heavy equipment mechanics or in refrigeration.