Fort Cavazos leadership, Killeen continue tradition

By Shawn Davis, Fort Cavazos Public AffairsApril 25, 2024

Seven people standing pose for a photo.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Fort Cavazos Garrison command team, relatives of Army aviator Capt. Robert Gray and city of Killeen Mayor Debbie Nash-King pose for a group photo at the Bob Gray Day ceremony. The ongoing tradition honors local war hero Gray, who was killed in action in the Pacific theatre of World War II. (Photo Credit: Shawn Davis, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
One person standing behind a wooden podium looks reads off a certificate while three people stand in a row with two people sitting behind them off slightly to the side.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Killeen mayor Debbie Nash-King reads a certificate honoring Robert Gray to his extended family at the Bob Gray Day ceremony. This is the 82nd annual celebration of Robert Gray's legacy. (Photo Credit: Shawn Davis, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — A local World War II hero was honored by community leaders for the 82nd year Thursday afternoon at the airport bearing his namesake, Robert Gray Army Airfield.

The ceremony took place inside the main lobby of the city’s regional airport, which regularly features displays of Robert Gray memorabilia.

Community leaders included Col. Lakicia Stokes, U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Cavazos commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Calvin Hall, U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Cavazos command sergeant major; Killeen Mayor Debbie Nash-King and the city of Killeen Executive Director of Communications Janell Ford. They joined Gray’s extended family, including Mark Manning, Gray’s third cousin, who read a letter Gray had written.

“We have been working about 15 hours a day, and that gets pretty tiresome,” Manning read, detailing the conditions of the Pacific campaign for Army aviators during World War II. “You see, it is in the middle of monsoon weather, and it’s about 100 degrees and raining most of the time. We live on a huge plantation where tea is grown and provides most of the world’s tea … I have seen Mount Everest and the Taj Mahal. I’ve been in all the big cities, but one — Bombay — and I hope to get there before I leave.”

Gray was killed in action in the Chinese-Burma campaign, just six months after having participated in the famous Doolittle Raid as a B-25 bomber pilot on April 18, 1942. The raid was the first to successfully attack the Japanese mainland from air and featured 16 B-25B Mitchell medium bombers lead by Lt. Col. James Doolittle, that flew without a fighter escort to strike Japan before landing in China.

“He lived his life to the fullest, and I don’t think he was careless about his life. I think he wanted to come back to Killeen. In fact, he talked about having a ranch when he came back,” Manning said.

Also present were members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. Posts 12209 and 9192.

Fort Cavazos has regularly honored Bob Gray along with the city of Killeen since its inception of Bob Gray Day shortly after his passing. The airfield operates in conjunction with the Killeen Regional Airport.

“If Capt. Gray was among us today,” Col. Stokes said at the ceremony, “I have no doubt that he would marvel at the spirit of partnership, camaraderie and unity that permeates between Fort Cavazos and the city of Killeen.”