Veterans Spotlight: Gil Murphy – Marine Corps veteran – Valencia resident


Gil Murphy was born May 28, 1940, in Burbank and attended Burbank High School graduating in 1958.

After two years at Glendale Junior College, he joined the U.S. Marines and was off to San Diego for boot camp. Gil earned exceptionally high scores on the intelligence and aptitude tests qualifying him for school at The Naval Aviation Cadet Program in Pensacola, Florida.

After boot camp and subsequent combat training at Camp Pendleton, Gil attended flight schools in Jacksonville and NAVCAD in Pensacola, Florida, and then was off to Sikorsky Helicopter School in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Next, Gil was assigned to a Marine Corps helicopter squadron in Jacksonville, North Carolina, flying air sea rescue missions on and off U.S. carriers up and down the East Coast from Virginia to Cuba.

Mission objectives were foreign submarine surveillance and emergency rescue and recovery. Gil said he lost count long ago of the number of people he and his crew saved in plane crashes and boating mishaps.

In the early 60s, his squadron rotated overseas to Fatima, Okinawa, with Gil as crew chief on Sikorsky HUS helicopters flying missions aboard Navy aircraft carriers, USS Hornet, USS Wasp, USS Ticonderoga and the USS Thetis Bay.

‘Air America’

Using Okinawa as their home base, Gil and his squadron patrolled the South Pacific hitting major ports in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, and even Melbourne, Australia.

At the end of Gil’s Okinawa tour of duty, unmarried helicopter pilots and crew chiefs were asked by their squadron colonel to volunteer for a special and possibly dangerous mission in Laos, working with the CIA.

Gil and others were chosen, spending the next six months in the sweaty and insect-ridden jungles of Udorn, Laos flying helicopters and clearing the jungle. Their mission was to help build a 4,800-foot runway for the first advisers to fly in on C-130s that would set up for what became known as the Vietnam War. That project became known as “Air America.”

“The best part of that assignment was every two weeks or so, we were able to shower and fly to Bangkok for two days liberty, plus our hazardous duty pay was three times our regular USMC paycheck,” Gil said.

Christmas romance

Upon his return home from overseas, Gil joined HMR-462, a “heavy” Marine Helicopter squadron in Tustin, California. For the remaining six months of service with the US. Marines, he was a crew chief and flew in the world’s largest helicopter, the Sikorsky HR2S.

While stationed at the Marine base in Santa Ana and home for Christmas leave, Gil met a girl he considered the most beautiful woman he had ever met, Cheryl Kelly. Turns out that her brother and Gil’s sister, both home from college for the holidays, schemed to get them together and they met Christmas night, 1961.

It was love at first sight. Two months later on Feb. 25, 1962, and after a dinner at a beautiful restaurant in Malibu overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Gil proposed to Cheryl. She promptly accepted and they were married six months to the day later and went on to have three children who gave them nine grandchildren.

Three of the nine grandkids married, and Gil now has a great-granddaughter. Tragically, Cheryl died of cancer Aug. 17, 2013 – just seven days short of what would have been their 51st wedding anniversary. Not a day goes by without Gil missing the love of his life.

Always a Marine

After the Marine Corps and then 20 years with AT&T, along with 25 years as CEO of several small companies, Gil was recruited to join College of the Canyons to assist owners and CEOs of new and growing companies on methods to improve their businesses, bank and investor financing.

During our interview, as I peppered Gil with questions of his Marine Corps service, Gil repeatedly and proudly showed me his numerous family photographs on his Samsung and several albums that he brought.

It became abundantly clear that his love for his family runs deep. Gil said, “The Marine Corps taught me discipline and structure which has served me well my entire life.”

Gil is a proud family man, and as the saying goes, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

He continues to be a proud Marine Corps veteran.

Bill Reynolds is one of the “Boys of ’67,” Charlie Company, 4th/47th, 9th Infantry Division and is the director of Veterans Affairs for The Signal.

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