grayOriginal Tuskegee Airman Leo Gray passed away last month at the age of 92. Gray had been a longtime supporter of the mission of the CAF Red Tail Squadron and a frequent featured guest at many of the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit’s visits to schools and air shows in Florida. We have been honored to stand beside such a great role model.

Gray, born in Boston, volunteered for service in 1943. He went to flight school at Tuskegee Army Airfield where he qualified for single-engine fighters. He was then assigned to Ramitelli, Italy where he flew 15 combat missions in the P-51 Mustang, logging 750 flight hours. He served 3 years and seven months active duty, and remained in the United States Air Force Reserves until 1984. He retired after 41 years of service with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

ltcolgray-wwiiDuring his military career, Gray was awarded the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, a Presidential Unit Citation and the Mediterranean Theatre of Operation Ribbon with three Battle Stars. The Tuskegee Airmen collectively were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by Congress in 2007 to recognize their “unique military record that inspired revolutionary reform in the Armed Forces.”

After the war, Gray earned a Bachelor of Science at the University of Massachusetts and a Masters degree at the University of Nebraska, both in agricultural economics. For 30 years, Gray coordinated research for the USDA. He credits his military service as the catalyst that helped his civilian career by giving him the skill and perseverance to be successful.

In an interview in 2015, Gray said, “The CAF Red Tail Squadron is one of the few organizations that has a hands-on approach to opening peoples’ eyes to aviation and the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit gives young people the opportunity to find out things that might never have been exposed to.”

Leo Gray was a kind and generous man. The staff and volunteers of the CAF Red Tail Squadron were very grateful for the time he invested in sharing his inspirational story with guests and supporters. He was a true American hero for his selfless service to his country – both during the war and as a civilian.

God speed.

 

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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