MILLINGTON, Tenn. -- The Millington Airshow has a special place in the hearts of many Mid-Southerners, including Brian McNamara.
“He wanted to get his picture taken with every plane, every jet on the base at the air show,” his mother Debbie McNamara said. “I just remember going around with the camera saying, ‘Let’s get a picture with this one. Let’s get a pic with that one!’”
So young Brian made a flight plan determined to land the job.
"He basically made himself a list when he was in sixth grade. He went on the computer and looked up what it would take to become a navy pilot,” his father Ray McNamara said. “He started off in band at Houston but transitioned into wrestling because one of the things on that list was a letter in athletics."
Good grades and becoming an Eagle Scout were also part of the package.
Eventually. his dreams started to take flight.
“All of that work got him a full ride scholarship - a navy scholarship – to Embry Riddle in Daytona Beach, Florida, which is a well-known flight school,” his parents said.
Brian graduated in 2012 and on the same day he was commissioned in to the U.S. Navy.
His parents teared up thinking about that moment.
“It was amazing," Debbie McNamara said.
Five years later, Lt. Brian McNamara’s career has taken off. He flies F-18s and was deployed on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower for seven months in 2016. McNamara is currently stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.
"The ability to take a super hornet and do what we train to do each day was amazing. That was the pinnacle of my career. I don’t think I could ever top it," Lt. McNamara said.
Though, he admitted he misses the comforts of home.
“I sure miss some Commissary barbecue!" he said.
But back home in Germantown, his work sometimes keeps his parents up at night.
“As soon as they fly over land they are a target if someone wants to make them a target,” Ray McNamara said of his son's deployment to the Middle East.
And even though he’s training in the Atlantic now, they still worry.
Navy officials said airstrikes in Syria come from the very carrier that replaced the Eisenhower in the Persian Gulf.
“Things are changing so quickly. Is he going to get deployed sooner than 2019? That’s a possibility,” Debbie McNamara said.
What’s more, Lt. McNamara’s daughter was born just six months before deployment. She was a year and a half when he got back.
His wife Jasmine hired a photographer to capture the moment.
“As he was walking toward us, it was absolutely the biggest smile we’ve ever seen on his face. Never seen him. Just sheer happiness on his face,” his parents said.
It was a culmination of sacrifice, hard work and a dream which all started in Millington.
"In the Navy’s best-world example, little boys and girls see Blue Angels and grow up to be Navy pilots. That’s exactly what Brian did,” Ray McNamara said.
He expected to deploy again, but until then wanted to cherish time with family.
McNamara said he planned to settle in either Tennessee or Alabama with his wife, a lawyer from Alabama, after his next deployment, but hoped to stay stationed in Virginia to give his family stability.