Speakers from the U.S. Coast Guard will share stories about their own service and stories of past Coast Guard heroes Thursday night during the Marine Corps League's monthly Heroes Among Us speakers series.
The popular, summertime outdoor speaker series at Veterans Memorial Park pays tribute to Pensacola's military heroes while raising money for projects that help area veterans.
Lt. Cmdr. Vincent Jansen, a helicopter pilot and flight safety officer, and Chief Petty Officer Melvin Zebrowski, a 20-year Coast Guard veteran stationed in Pensacola, will lead U.S. Coast Guard Night.
Although Pensacola is best known as the Cradle of Naval Aviation and the home of the elite U.S. Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team, Pensacola has a long history with the Coast Guard, both men said.
"Pensacola has always been good to the Coast Guard," said Jansen, who is working as an aviation safety instructor during his current posting in Pensacola.
Elmer Stone, the first Coast Guard aviator, graduated from flight training in Pensacola back in 1916, he said.
"Pensacola is the place where our first Coast Guard aviator got his wings and it is where many Coast Guard aviators have gone through training," said Jansen, who was previously posted with the Coast Guard in San Diego and Kodiak, Alaska.
The Coast Guard is in the middle of a yearlong celebration recognizing 100 years of Coast Guard aviation. Jansen plans to share some of that aviation history with the crowd.
Jansen also plans to share some of his own experiences as an aviation safety officer and accident investigator. Because Coast Guard aviators often fly into inclement and hazardous conditions, safety is a major concern, he said.
Zebrowski, who is charged with maintaining navigation aids in Gulf waters from Orange Beach, Alabama, through Choctawhatchee Bay, will share his experiences in various Coast Guard postings including New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Virginia and San Diego during his 20-year career. His postings have included search and rescue and drug interdiction.
"A lot of people do not understand exactly what the Coast Guard does," he said.
Zebrowski will also tell the stories of two major incidents in Coast Guard history — Douglas Munro, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for rescuing Marines off Guadalcanal in World War II, and the 1952 Coast Guard rescue of dozens of merchant seamen during a hurricane off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
The 1952 rescue was featured this year in the movie "The Finest Hours" starring Chris Pine.
Zebrowski said he hopes people who come to the Heroes Among Us event will walk away with a better understand of the Coast Guard and its rich history.
"I think it is a great honor to be asked to speak and I really appreciate the Marine Corps League reaching out to us in the Coast Guard," he said.
Jansen and Zebrowski will speak at 6 p.m. Thursday in Veterans Memorial Park, 200 S. 10th Ave.
The speakers series continues on the last Thursday evening of each month through October.
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