In what turned out to be quite a memorable weekend, Rear Adm. James Bynum celebrated the end to an illustrious 36-year military career where it all began – at the University of Oklahoma.
Although the 1985 Price College of Business and OU Naval ROTC alumnus officially retired from the Navy this summer, Bynum chose to officially celebrate the event with other OU Naval ROTC alumni at the group’s annual reunion barbecue the weekend of the OU-Nebraska football game.
Little did he know, the retirement celebration wasn’t the only event where he’d be recognized while in Norman.
“It was important for me to acknowledge the significant, positive contributions and influence that OU and the Naval ROTC Unit made on my development and my career. I also wanted to pass the torch to the next generation of young leaders preparing themselves for Naval service and to close out my career where it all started for me, in the Armory at OU.”
“The OU vs. Nebraska football game capped off what was a really big week for us as a family,” Bynum said. “Unbeknownst to me, one of my old ROTC mates and another alum nominated me for the Patriot of the Game. Frankly, when the folks at OU informed me that I had been selected, I was a bit overwhelmed.”
Bynum’s weekend began on Thursday afternoon at the OU Armory, where his retirement ceremony was held in conjunction with a regularly scheduled training period for the midshipmen. Bynum, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems from OU, said it was important to have his retirement event at the university so he could share the moment with as many of his OU and service friends, as well as family members, as possible.
“It was important for me to acknowledge the significant, positive contributions and influence that OU and the Naval ROTC Unit made on my development and my career,” he said. “I also wanted to pass the torch to the next generation of young leaders preparing themselves for Naval service and to close out my career where it all started for me, in the Armory at OU.”
Bynum said he was fortunate to have received a Naval ROTC scholarship to pay for his college education. When his family was relocated to Lawton, he began looking at OU because of its strong Naval ROTC program.
“I didn’t start out to make the military a career, but I did want to fly and to fly off aircraft carriers. Since there’s only one place to do that, and that’s the U.S. Navy, I pursued the Naval ROTC scholarship right out of high school,” Bynum said. “I was very fortunate to have gotten to do that, and to do it for a very long time.
Bynum, a former F/A-18 pilot, has clocked thousands of hours of flight time as a Navy pilot and pilot trainer during his career. His deployments include tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and he has served as a Capitol Hill fellow on the staff of U.S. Sen. John S. McCain.
“Looking back, my most cherished memories are of those people I’ve been fortunate to have served with. The bonds we’ve built while working together as teammates, shipmates and squadron mates to accomplish a mission are very special,” he said. “I’m most proud to have been part of some tremendous teams and been able to contribute my service for longer than I’d ever imagined.”
Bynum said although initially surprised, he’s grateful his friends nominated him for Patriot of the Game. Tailgating and being recognized on the field during the game capped off what was already an unforgettable weekend celebrating with family and friends, he said.
“We had a wonderful time both the night prior and on game day. I was able to bring a group comprised of about 10 immediate family members and a few friends. It was great to see them experience the rare peek behind the scenes and to get to see, close up, all of the many trophies and artifacts linked to OU’s long history of athletic excellence,” he said. “Game day was a lot of fun, too. We were welcomed warmly at every single turn. The staff was professional, and everything went off like clockwork. I know from personal experience that coordinating a thing like this is not easy.
“And thanks to the team and coach Riley for the mementos,” he added. “I’ve already got the football on the mantel, and we’re framing up the jersey.”
Now officially retired, Bynum said next on his agenda is settling down in a permanent location and spending more time with his family.
“We’re taking a little time to relax a bit, which includes doing some travel,” he said. “I’m also exploring opportunities to contribute, but in a different way than with my time in the Navy. Some of that will involve finding a community where we can do that and where we can build the kind of relationships that we’ve been fortunate to enjoy for these many years.”
Presented by the OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies, Patriot of the Game honors military service members at home football games, as well as various men’s and women’s basketball games, baseball games and softball games.
Patriot of the Game is just one of many ways PACS serves military families. PACS is a leader in military education with more than 55 years of experience supporting the educational needs of service members worldwide. PACS brings the excellence of OU degrees and programs to students, wherever they may be. Visit our website for more information on our degrees and our offerings for service members.
Do you know someone who deserves to be Patriot of the Game? To nominate a service member, visitpatriot.pacs.ou.edu and tell us why.