ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. — “If you’ve met Chief Binnicker, you’ve met an icon — a hero, a legend,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, James A. Cody.
Cody said these words as he delivered the eulogy for former Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James C. Binnicker at the Fort Meyer post chapel in Arlington, Virginia, Aug. 14.
As Binnicker’s flag-draped casket lay in front of more than 500 family, friends and fellow Airmen, a hushed silence fell over a visibly somber crowd as Cody reflected on Binnicker’s impact on today’s Air Force.
“If you’ve met Chief Binnicker, you’re a better Airman today for it, for those moments, or that moment you spent together,” Cody said. “If you’ve met Chief Binnicker, you’re better prepared to lead because of the truth and wisdom he likely shared, even when the truth hurt a little.”
Binnicker was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, on July 23, 1938. He, like many others, was drawn to the possibility of one day becoming a pilot, but high-frequency hearing loss in his right ear prevented him from flying. It didn’t stop him from a chasing his dream, however. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1957 and spent most of his early career on the flight line.
Originally in the personal equipment career field, Binnicker cross-trained into air operations. While deployed to Vietnam, he planned flights for missions with the 22nd Tactical Air Support Squadron.
After Vietnam and before serving as the ninth chief master sergeant of the Air Force, Binnicker spent time as the senior enlisted adviser for the 12th Air Force, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces and Headquarters Tactical Command. He also represented the Air Force as senior enlisted adviser on the President’s Commission on Military Compensation.
“Taking care of our Air Force family is not a one-time deal, it’s a forever deal; those are Chief Binnicker’s words not mine,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. “He believed them, he shared them, and most importantly he lived every day by them. He dedicated all he had to our service and he continued his life’s work as a wingman, leader and warrior.”
At the conclusion of a long and distinguished career, the time came for Binnicker to retire. Much like when hearing loss didn’t stop him from serving, a retirement ceremony wouldn’t stop his relentless drive to support the men and women of the Air Force.
In March 2000, Binnicker became the president and CEO of the Air Force Enlisted Village, a nonprofit charity located in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, that provides a home for the surviving spouses of enlisted military personnel.
As the morning dew still clung to the grass, a caisson trailed by a long line of Airmen, family and friends followed Binnicker to his final resting place in section 57.
After a 21-gun salute, the playing of “Taps,” and a B-52 Stratofortress flyover, Cody once again spoke. This time, he did so on bended knee with a folded flag in both hands and his words were reserved only for Binnicker’s wife, Janice.
The ninth chief master sergeant of the Air Force now rests in the shadows of the Air Force Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.