Tulsa marchers remember slain airman as 'natural born hero'
BY DAVID HARPER World Staff Writer
Sunday, February 10, 2013
2/10/13 at 7:04 AM
Those who met U.S. Air Force Maj. David Gray will always remember him.
That's how Heather Gray described her husband, who died last August due to a suicide bomb attack while he was serving in Kunar province, Afghanistan.
On Saturday in Tulsa, David Gray was remembered with a memorial "ruck" march that began in Veterans Park and went down the River Parks trail to 71st Street before heading back to the park at 1875 S. Boulder Ave.
The march was organized by the Tactical Air Control Party Association, which counts Gray as one of its fallen heroes. Tactical controllers provide front-line support meant to increase the capability of ground combat forces.
However, on Saturday, TACP members from Oklahoma and all over the country gathered in Tulsa to provide support for Gray and what he stood for.
"God, family and country weren't three separate things to him," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. David Wilburn. "They were one."
Wilburn, 54, met Gray in Brunswick, Ga. in 1995. Gray was only in his early 20s then. However, Wilburn remembers that Gray was a "natural born leader" even at that age.
Although Heather Gray called Wilburn one of her husband's mentors, Wilburn said as the years unfolded "we really mentored each other."
"He was an incredible person," Wilburn said. "He never met a stranger."
Charlie McDonald, now retired from the Air Force, said he met David Gray at a 16-week training session in Hurlburt, Fla., in the 1990s and still remembers him as "calm, sincere and motivated."
Although recent foot surgery precluded him from actually taking part in Saturday's march, McDonald said he traveled from Lawton on Saturday in Gray's memory.
Gray was assigned to the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Carson, Colo., and - in support of Operation Enduring Freedom - his unit was responsible for integrating combat airpower into ground operations, according to information released by Moody Air Force Base located in his home state of Georgia.
It's been slightly more than six months since her husband's death on Aug. 8 at the age of 38, but Heather Gray said she is still hearing from people whose lives he touched.
Gray now lives in Colorado Springs and has started Finish Strong Ministries to carry on her husband's message of perseverance in the face of adversity.
Gray, 32, said the couple met at Charleston Southern University in South Carolina, and their home for the next 11 years was "wherever the Air Force sent us." She said they lived in Oklahoma briefly while he was stationed at Altus Air Force Base about 10 years ago.
Still, she said she was not surprised by the strong show of support on Saturday from the close-knit community of tactical airmen who gathered in Tulsa to remember one of their own.
"It's a real brotherhood," she said. "I know if I needed help, any one of these guys would drop everything to be there for me."
Original Print Headline: Airman remembered as 'natural born hero'
David Harper 918-581-8359
Heather Gray, widow of Air Force Maj. Walter "David" Gray, of Conyers, Ga., who died last August in Afghanistan, leads a memorial march from Veterans Park on Saturday. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Master Sgt. David Wilburn leads marchers in prayer before they set off on a memorial march in honor of Air Force Maj. Walter "David" Gray. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World