By Capt. Jannelle Allong-DiakabanaMay 30, 2019
WEST POINT, N.Y. -- The humid and muggy spring air blankets the Mixon brothers as they spend one of their last weeks together at the U.S. Military Academy. They take a quick break from parade rehearsals, cleaning their rooms and preparing for summer training to reminisce on their rare and fortunate situation of having three siblings attending one service academy simultaneously.
Hunter Mixon, the oldest of the brothers, soon to be second lieutenant, prepares to drive four years' worth of belongings to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for Field Artillery Basic Officer Leaders Course.
"I will miss the people of West Point most," Hunter said. "It's a unique community of people where everyone truly looks out for one another, for the most part, and aspires to be great."
Hunter commissioned with 985 members of the Class of 2019, May 25, and was happy to have two of his brothers witness his journey and share his successful commissioning.
"It's been good being their leader, showing them pitfalls, especially more so once they got here," Hunter said.
The Mixon brothers hail from Maryland. During the summer of 2018, Hunter led cadets during Cadet Summer Training; the second oldest Harrison, cut his teeth as a rising Yearling in the back woods of the Cadet Training Center; and the youngest, Brandon, began his transformation from civilian to new cadet.
"I did not find it difficult to assimilate once I got to West Point," Harrison said. "Knowing that (my older brother was here with me) helped me a lot."
Harrison, a psychology major, has goals of becoming a military police officer once he commissions in May of 2021. He will attend Air Assault school and serve as a Cadet Field Training squad leader this summer.
Brandon, a member of the class of 2022, has been most fortunate to watch two older brothers live and lead honorably as future Army leaders.
He said goodbye to them on their respective Reception Days, helped their parents send them packages of junk food during CST, observed their ability to meet the demands of academics, heard them compare individual performances on the humbling and lung-busting Indoor Obstacle Course Test, and admired their endless support of Army athletics through the soul-crushing cold of the Hudson Valley region.
"I was prepared for Beast. I wasn't ahead of my peers, but (my older brothers' guidance) lessened the shock and prepared me for a first semester of academics," Brandon said. With all the advice given to him, he surely will feel the pressure of performing the best.
Brandon should in theory be the most successful. He feels the pressure to be extremely successful since his brothers have set a high standard before him, and he appreciates all they have done to pave the way for him.
A civil engineering major, he will participate in an Individual Academic Development with the Air Force Academy's Field Engineering and Readiness Laboratory this summer. He aspires to be an aviation or engineer officer.
There is no denying the healthy competition between the brothers, particularly in basketball. "We play basketball together a lot. We set the bar a little higher for each other in everything we do," Hunter said. He also joked, "If you look at our performance from eldest to youngest, the grades get higher and higher."
The road to commissioning is not easy for anyone. Hunter's journey tested his grit and commitment to excellence. He found balancing the academic demands and personal life of '"Firstie" year to be the most challenging aspect of the cadet experience and, as a result he was advised to take administrative leave as a senior, setting him one year behind his classmates.
"Cadets who struggle while attending the academy must seek help. Pride can be a huge deterrent in whether someone seeks help or not," Hunter said.
It was difficult for him, but he acknowledged his pitfalls and shortcomings and adjusted course.
"It is too easy to fall behind on studies and military requirements," Hunter said. "So, whether in the academic or personal realms, West Point offers a wide array of resources that allow for cadets to continue to achieve and succeed."
Once he returned to complete his degree, Hunter attributed his brothers' support to reaching the finish line.
"Having two brothers here helping me with the struggle of academics is why I am able to reach this point in my career," Hunter said.
Since his freshman year, Hunter realized that his leadership style drew others together and that they listened to him easily. He refuses to back down from a challenge, assessing and exploring his personal limits. His leadership style truly evolved after returning from administrative leave, which he says contributed to his increased humility, compassion and resilience.
Within the graduating Class of 2019, only 82 cadets are the sons or daughters of West Point graduates. Hunter is one of them and it is no surprise this young man overcame any challenges while here.
"Having a dad from West Point and a senior officer, he showed me what true sacrifice looked like," Hunter said. "I knew growing up that I could accomplish anything I put my mind too. My parents were steadfast in their support for me and after six years at the academy, I've finally made it to the promised land."
The Mixons hail from an extremely supportive and adaptable family. Their father is a 1986 West Point graduate who retired from the Army after 30 years of service as a military intelligence officer.
Their mother homeschooled them and their five other siblings, overseeing their early academic and artistic development.
"I never imagined 33 years ago, that God would bless me with eight children and send at least three of them to West Point," retired Col. Laurence Mixon said. "Seeing three sons follow close order behind me and begin careers in the Army fills my heart with tremendous joy today and great confidence for tomorrow. Beat Navy!"
Being children in a military family, the Mixon trio lived all over the world. They proclaimed their favorite and most memorable home was Fort Lewis, Washington, where their father was stationed the longest.
They all agree this home is where they made the most friends, attended a great church and had the tightest and strongest community.
After every mandatory lunch where 4,400 members of the Corps of Cadets eat together, the Mixon brothers make the time to shuffle through the tightly packed tables and overall mess hall business to meet up every day.
"Now we are all tight. Being at West Point has definitely strengthened that relationship," Hunter said.
It can be heard among their fellow cadets during lunch, "There go the Mixon brothers!"
He chose Fort Drum to escape the humidity of the Hudson Valley and all the brothers admit they prefer the bone-chilling cold of the northeast to any other climate in the country.
Hunter hopes to return to West Point when it aligns with his military career, to be a training advising counseling officer for future cadets.
With the end of daily room inspections, mandatory weekend military training and graded physical fitness tests along the windy and commonly used two-mile course, Hunter is thrilled to begin the next chapter and serve the nation as a second lieutenant.
"I look forward to performing well, being here for six years showed me that I can overcome anything," he said.
As a second lieutenant, the pressure to be an exemplary leader of character is high. "If I can set an example of a humble servant-leader, if I can codify and exemplify to my brothers what that looks like, then I can prepare them to be better officers when they pin on their second lieutenant bars," Hunter said.