05/30/08 — Hometown boy ... done good

View Archive

Hometown boy ... done good

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 30, 2008 1:50 PM

Friday morning's ceremony on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was bittersweet for James Jinnette, as the Air Force lieutenant colonel saluted members of the 4th Fighter Wing's 335th Fighter Squadron one final time as their commander.

It was not that he was worried about the man to whom he was passing the flag.

In fact, he "could not think of a better person to lead the Chiefs" than Lt. Col. Lance Bunch.

But Jinnette was reluctant to leave because for the Goldsboro native, it marked the end of a "dream assignment."

"You know, (my wife), Meredith, and I have been here for five years on this assignment. Being here, stationed in our hometown with both our parents ... and commanding the Chiefs, this has been the highlight of our lives," Jinnette said. "It's been an incredible blessing."

Now, it's on to Army War College in Pennsylvania for the command pilot and his family.

"I'm going to try to learn as much as I can about the art of war," Jinnette said. "Try to become a better leader."

So that maybe, one day, his career will bring him back to Goldsboro, back to Seymour Johnson, back home.

But he knows that decision won't be his to make.

"That would be a dream come true. But you know, when you get to my age, or this point in your career, you just go where they tell you," he said. "They don't really ask you for your vote."

But if they did, he would certainly come right back to the 4th.

And not simply because Wayne County is home.

"You know, I have traveled quite a bit across the Air Force. You realize that we just have such a strong group of supporters in Goldsboro and Wayne County who look after our airmen. We on this base are woven into the fabric of Goldsboro and Wayne County," Jinnette said. "You know, people who are new here, they kind of see the gate and think the base is here and the community is over here. That's not the way it is. We live together. We work together."

It truly is a unique relationship, he said -- one he has experienced from both sides.

And that community support is what makes Seymour Johnson the place airmen, young and old, want to be.

So as they pack up for their next assignment, the Jinnettes know it is not goodbye.

This will always be home, even if they have to wait until the colonel's retirement to come back to it.

And if there is another like the younger version of Jinnette out there beyond the gate, and one day he or she looks into the Wayne County sky at a group of F-15Es passing overhead, he hopes someone will be there to say "Yes" if they ever ask if they, too, can be a fighter pilot one day.

Maybe then, years from now, someone else will have realized the dream he has been living for the last half-decade.

"If somebody has a child who has a dream as big as this one, they need to do everything they can, just as my parents did for me, to push them toward it, to help them achieve. Because this, it means everything," Jinnette said. "And if they make it to the Air Force, I hope they consider it a privilege to be able to serve. I know I do."