August/September 2006
Mid-Atlantic Edition

Gulledge says, "Life has been good to me 
and I wish to repay." He does that by flying
for Angel Flight.
Frank Gulledge

Providing Service to Others

By Michelle Abbott


In  August  1956,  Franklin  A.  Gulledge, Jr.  started  his  aviation  career  in Pensacola, FL as a Naval Aviation Cadet. Since then he has been a helicopter pilot,  a vice-president of a bank and a flight instructor.  According to Frank, “Life  has been good to me and  I wish to repay.”  Frank's repayment plan  is an excellent example of what service to others is all about. 

In  April  1958,   Frank  became  a  Second Lieutenant  in  the  United  States Marine Corps where he spent twenty years as a helicopter pilot. His service to his  country  included  several  overseas  assignments and one tour of combat duty  during the  Vietnam Conflict  where he was  awarded the  Distinguished Flying Cross and 34 Air Medals (Strike Flight Awards). After retiring in 1978, Major  Gulledge became the  executive vice-president of  a  local bank  in the Louisville, KY area.  A short time later, he  returned  to aviation, becoming a civilian flight instructor.

Frank  is still a flight  instructor today principally  training  private  pilots  to become instrument rated. He works out of Addington Field in Elizabethtown near  his home in  Brandenburg, Kentucky.  He lives with his wife,  Gail who, according to Frank, “has been supportive of me for many, many years.”  She has been his most avid supporter first as a Marine Corps pilot and now as an Angel Flight pilot. 

Frank  believes  strongly in the  Angel Flight  program and  flies  missions  as often  as his  schedule allows.  He is  based out of  the  Mid-Atlantic  regional office  ( whose  mission  is "  ensure  that  no finan- cially  needy  patient  is denied access  to  distant specialized  medical evalua- tion,  diagnosis,  treatment,  or rehabilitation  for  lack  of  a  means  of  long distance  medical  air  transportation."  In addition  to their  medical  related flights, Mid-Atlantic Angel Flight pilots have  been and still are assisting with hurricane  relief  efforts  by  bringing  relief  workers  into  damaged  regions  while  relocating  displaced  persons  to areas with suitable  housing and  reu- niting them with their families. 

Shortly  after  Hurricane Katrina,  Frank flew  to Louisianna  to  pick  up  a  mother and  son who had  been  stranded  and  needed  to  get back to Baltimore.  Frank  flies a  Piper  Warrior, a  very comfortable  plane  for transporting  people, but not  sufficient  for   the  200  ibs. of  baggage  his
passengers brought with them to airport!  The travelers ended up repacking a small  collection  of essentials  and  having  their  friends ship  the  remaining luggage to them. 

When asked to describe his most memorable  Angel Flight mission or patient, Frank replied,  “They are all memorable patients and  I have yet  to transport somebody who was not very appreciative of Angel Flight.” 

Most  long  missions are broken into two or  three legs to make  the journeys more  affordable  for pilots,  both  in time and flight costs,  which  each  pilot pays for himself. Frank often takes on entire missions, allowing the patient to avoid  changing  planes  and possibly reaching  their destination  sooner.  He often stays overnight and brings patients back the next day.

Angel Flight  is  only  one  way Frank serves others.  Since  retiring  from  the Marine  Corps,  he has been  a  trustee for  Lincoln  Memorial  University  in Harrogate, Tennessee.  He studied for two years at Lincoln before joining the military  and was asked by  the university to  serve as a  trustee  shortly  after retiring from the Marine Corps. 

In addition to serving as  a trustee and flying for  Angel Flight,  Frank  main- tains two websites that  honor special groups of servicemen:  Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, otherwise known as the world famous Purple Foxes and  The Warriors of Hill 881S.  Frank  flew as a  member of the  Purple  Fox helicopter  squadron  in Vietnam and was  first asked to  serve as the group’s historian and webmaster several years ago. Despite no formal training, Frank took on the challenge  and   learned   web   design  “on   the   job,”   creating ( to honor his fellow Purple Fox Marines. 

He  did such a wonderful  job with the  Purple Fox site that he  was contacted by Colonel William H. Dabney, USMC (Ret)  who wanted to  honor his  men in a similar fashion.  Frank flew to visit him and they discussed how  Colonel Dabney’s men  had  held  Hill 881S  during  siege  of  Khe Sanh,  one  of  the fiercest battles of the Vietnam War. Frank agreed to create the site and main- tain  it ( for  the  same  fee  he  charged  the Purple Foxes—nothing. 

Frank  serves  others  in  many ways.  He  says, “I  feel good  about doing it.” When  asked  what  advice  he  would  give  pilots  who  might be considering Angel Flight as part of  their own “repayment plan,”  Frank said, “Absolutely do it.  Don’t worry about contributing a lot of time.  Even if you can only do three or four flights per year, do it.”

Maj. Gulledge's History Index

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