Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Steve Lyons was considered a beacon of strength during south Mississippi's darkest hours. Because of his leadership after Katrina, the Coast Guard got back on its feet. On Friday, the commander of Coast Guard Station Gulfport relinquished control of his unit.
During the change of command ceremony, Lyons' boss pointed out what a skilled leader Gulfport was losing. He said after Katrina, when Coast Guard petty officers were given a chance to transfer away from the area's destruction, not a single person was willing to give up the ship. That teamwork approach to leadership was evident when Lyons was asked what his fondest memory of Coast Guard Station Gulfport was.
"I would definitely say it was the way the crew responded after Hurricane Katrina," he said.
The formal ceremony marking Lyons last day in Gulfport was so different than the confusion and the uncertainty of a key period of time during his three year tour.
On his final inspection of his crew, Lyons saw the past, the present, and the future. Just beyond the standing officers were the trailers Coast Guard Station Gulfport now calls home. Behind them was the construction site where the new Coast Guard home is going up. Both locations are obvious reminders to Commander Lyons of August 29, 2005.
"This is the thing these guys prepare for their entire Coast Guard career, you know to bring it to a new level," the chief warrant officer said. "And they responded unbelievably."
Lyons remembered the scene in front of his destroyed headquarters in those first hours after Katrina. Petty officers and their families were picking through what was left of their complex.
Amid the rubble, they found the American flag that flew over the Coast Guard's home. That tattered flag, the one with so much meaning to Coast Guard Station Gulfport, was presented to Lyons as a going away gift. When he looks at it, Lyons see "a memory of my life where we got to do our job at the highest level, and give the support to the local Mississippi residents that they deserve."
Lyons new orders have him taking over a Coast Guard command in North Carolina.
The new commander of Coast Guard Station Gulfport is Brandt Martin. He spent the last four years in New Orleans.