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Celebration of life: ninth CMSAF James C. Binnicker

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody speaks during ninth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James C. Binnicker’s celebration of life ceremony at the Emerald Coast Convention Center, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., March 28, 2015. Binnicker spent 15 years as the CEO and president of the Air Force Enlisted Village in Shalimar, Fla., providing more than 400 residents a place to call home. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Callaway)

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody speaks during ninth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James C. Binnicker’s celebration of life ceremony at the Emerald Coast Convention Center, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., March 28, 2015. Binnicker spent 15 years as the CEO and president of the Air Force Enlisted Village in Shalimar, Fla., providing more than 400 residents a place to call home. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Callaway)

FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. -- Family members, friends and Airmen are mourning the loss of an American treasure -- ninth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James C. Binnicker.

More than 1,000 people gathered to celebrate his life during a ceremony at the Emerald Coast Convention Center here March 28.

Everyone who spoke emphasized the fact that Binnicker made a difference in all the ways that really mattered.

“He was an iconic Airman,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody. “He set the standard as an innovator and as a leader. His direct honesty connected him with every Airman he came across. He cared so much. He made us all want to follow him.”

Binnicker continued to inspire Airmen long after he retired. For 15 years, Binnicker spoke to every ALS class at Hurlburt Field, reaching at least 4,200 Airmen.

Chief Master Sgt. Cory Olson, the 1st Special Operations Wing command chief, said he did this because he had a passion for anything and everything to do with Airmen.

“Chief Binnicker always gave his time and energy to Air Force events,” Olson said. “He was very funny, larger than life, and a great story teller with extremely quick wit. He treated people the way he wanted to be treated … much like his ‘Mom Rule.’”

As the CEO and president of the Air Force Enlisted Village in Shalimar, Florida, Binnicker incorporated the “Mom Rule” into the village’s mission and philosophy.

The “Mom Rule” is simple. When making a decision that impacted the residents, the staff should ask themselves:

– “Would I do this to my mom?”
– “Would I do this for my mom?”
– “Would my mom approve?”

Chief Binnicker always said that if they could answer the questions correctly, they would know they were doing the right thing.

He spent 15 years at the village, providing more than 400 residents a loving and secure place to call home. One resident remembers meeting Binnicker and thinking he was the janitor.

Alice Coffman, who spoke at the ceremony, said that she saw Binnicker vacuuming when she first moved into the village. During her 15 years living at the village, she learned just how down-to-earth the chief was and saw firsthand how he truly cared about the residents like they were his own family.

During Hurricane Ivan, he refused to leave the village because he wanted to take care of everyone.

“When our power went out, he was outside cutting down trees,” she said. “He started up the grill and cooked us all hot dogs and hamburgers.”

Another resident, Judy O’Brien, said Binnicker was their best advocate.
“He definitely had our backs,” she said. “His door was always open, and we were greeted with a big smile, honor and respect. He was a wonderful man, courageous leader, and he gave back so much more than he ever received.”

Sen. Don Gaetz described Binnicker as a servant leader.

“He was a great man because he was also a good man,” Gaetz said during the ceremony. “He took me around the village and introduced me to the residents, and he didn’t just know everyone’s name, he knew everyone’s story.

Binnicker was a genuine man of character, courage and wisdom, and his legacy will live on.

Years ago, Binnicker said he wanted to be remembered for doing his best.

“Jim … Chief, you did your best,” Cody said. “And, your best was more than enough … you added joy to our lives … you brought triumph and glory to our Air Force.”

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