Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Boggs, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, began his military service in the Marines, not the Army. As a Marine, he served the United States for ten years. Then he served the residents of Lakeland, Fla., as a police officer for three years. While in line to register to attend school intending to commission as Marine officer, he saw a poster.
“Become a helicopter pilot,” the Army recruiting poster said.
Helicopters are part of the Boggs legacy.
His great-grandmother was an Army instructor pilot during World War II. Sue Nell Graham Boggs taught women to fly.
His father, formerly an air traffic controller with the Marines, volunteered as a door-gunner in a helicopter unit during Vietnam with the U. S. Army’s 176th Assault Helicopter Company.
“I always wanted to fly Hueys, and when I came in, the Army got rid of Hueys and went to Blackhawks. I became a Blackhawk pilot, which I loved,” Boggs said.
Boggs has served as a Blackhawk pilot for just over 20 years.
Family, fellow Soldiers, and friends gathered at a hangar at Simmons Army Airfield, Friday, to watch as Boggs completed his last flight as a Blackhawk pilot.
Kennedy, 3, and Samuel, 6, played on the airfield and waited with their mom, Capt. Elizabeth Boggs, 44th Medical Brigade, while waiting for their father to land.
Previously a prosecutor in Grand Rapids, Mich., when she married James, Elizabeth decided to pursue her career in the military with her husband’s support.
“Which was great, because he taught me everything. He taught me how to wear my uniform, how to salute,” said Elizabeth.
After circling the airfield an extra time or two, Boggs landed the Blackhawk. A fire truck greeted the Blackhawk with a traditional water salute by spraying water over the helicopter and Elizabeth, Kennedy and Samuel took the hose next to douse their father.
Among those on Boggs’ final flight crew, were service members he served with during a previous deployment to Afghanistan, all three of which had traveled from across the U.S. to be with him on his last flight.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rafael Espinosa, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, 1st Aviation Brigade, came from Fort Rucker, Ala., to participate in Boggs’ last flight and fondly refers to Boggs as “Papa Bear.”
“He just always had a really good outlook on everything … he is also a man of the cloth, and just a solid Christian, so he was easy to turn to,” said Espinosa of his time downrange with Boggs.
For Boggs, the most potent part of his experience as a soldier has been the relationships he has built with those who served alongside him.
“It wasn’t the mission, but it was the people we walked with, it was the people we fought alongside that made it worth it,” said Boggs.
Boggs addressed those there to celebrate his time in service, thanking his Family, friends, and his brothers in arms.
“I’m blown away, I’m blown away by the past 34 years of my life, what I have been able to do, what I have been allowed to do,” said Boggs. “I’m just, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for everyone who showed up today to support this … this is truly amazing, just an amazing day. Thank you for letting me serve.”
Boggs will continue to contribute his time to the nonprofit organization, Team Addo, which supports veterans through their Veteran’s Closet Initiative. VCI provides business attire to veterans seeking to enter the workforce. Boggs is also considering going to seminary.