SHS grad follows dream to U.S. Army

Bo Pinnell and wife Johanna started dating as juniors at Sequim High. Both graduated in 2010.  - Submitted photo
Bo Pinnell and wife Johanna started dating as juniors at Sequim High. Both graduated in 2010.
— image credit: Submitted photo

Bo Pinnell is, by even his own definition, mature for his 22 years.

He’s married, been deployed in an overseas war, earned a promotion to sergeant and even has a bad back and knees from his years in airborne units.

But Pinnell knows he grew up quickly by choice. By fifth grade, the Sequim youth knew he’d be following his father — and eventually, his older brother — into the armed services. Less than a year after high school, he signed up.

“I didn’t really know what else to do (but) I’m glad I did it,” Pinnell said, on break after serving with an Army Infantry Airborne Unit in Italy since May 2011. “I’m glad I’m still in. It helps answer all those questions, like ‘What are you doing?’ You see a lot, do a lot.”

And he has. That includes marrying high school sweetheart Johanna (nee Ewing). Both graduated Sequim High in 2010 and were married during one of Pinnell’s rare, 36-hour leaves.

“It wasn’t a dream wedding,” Pinnell admitted, recalling going back to his unit in Italy and working for five months to get his wife overseas. Pinnell said he reenlisted to help pay for Johanna’s studies — Johanna’s studying to be caregiver — a move that the Sequim man said helped keep him centered. “I’d be out right now (without her),” he said. “I’d be lost.”

That doesn’t mean he’s ready to call himself a career soldier just yet. Pinnell said he’s got about six years to decide if he wants to reenlist at the 10-year mark — but that means another 10 years in the service. A tempting prospect, he admitted, but so is going to college. Pinnell said he’s thought about pursuing a fire science degree and possibly move back to Sequim. “I’d love to go to school, see what I could make of it,” he said.

One thing that’s definitely out is staying in the airborne services. All that jumping out of planes, Pinnell said, has given the young man a compromised back and knees. Instead, he’ll be an E5 (team leader) at Fort Carson, a United States Army installation near Colorado Springs, Colo.

“I’m done with jumping,” Pinnell said. “Definitely going to be a change of pace.”

In his short time with the U.S. Army, Pinnell noted, he’s seen plenty of changes — notably, the level of professionalism has jumped up. Getting in trouble will get you a swift ticket out of the service, Pinnell said, and tattoos are a non-starter for those with dreams of being an officer. He would know: Pinnell sports a colorful sleeve of ink on his right arm, an elaborate display of Italian mythology complete with the seven deadly sins (in Italian) in script on his forearm.

For new recruits, that’s pretty much a no-no, he said. “They want to keep a professional army.”

Pinnell recently recounted a particularly dangerous 72-hour stretch of his nine-month deployment in Afghanistan in the Sequim Gazette (“Verbatim,” July 30, page A-10), serving in the Wardak province. For Pinnell, the firefight doesn’t deter him from the idea of seeing combat once again.

“I would love to deploy again,” Pinnell said. “I would do it again.”


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