James E. Gilliland
James Edward Gilliland, Col, USAF, (Retired) passed away peacefully on September 17, 2022 at the age
He was born in Ottumwa, Iowa on June 17, 1933. He grew up in a Christian home and was
preceded in death by his parents James Leslie and Mayme Ethel. He leaves behind his loving wife of 69
years, Neva Bessie. He is survived by his sister Gloria Davidson and his four children: Dr. David Gilliland
and his wife Janet, Captain Kent Gilliland, Delta Air Lines (Retired) and his wife Cynthia, Brent Gilliland,
Col, USAF (Retired), and Connie Ede and her husband Carl. He has also left a Godly legacy to his eight
grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
Born the younger of two children, James grew up in a changing time throughout the tides of war and
peace. The seed of patriotism was planted during these early years, and he was committed to serving his
country. While attending Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa he met the love of his life and married
Neva Bessie Dobbins on August 29, 1953. He graduated, with her love and support, as the Distinguished
Military Graduate of the US Air Force ROTC Program. When he graduated, the war in Korea was over.
Despite the conclusion of the war, James decided he would follow his path to joining the United States
Air Force in 1954.
The following six years were full of challenging and changing times, as James went through navigator
and pilot training programs while also starting a family with Neva welcoming four children into their
lives. James and Neva were a great team who were committed to each other, committed to raising their
four children, but most of all committed to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
While the Vietnam War was officially declared in 1959, James did not immediately go into the front
lines. Until 1965, nearly six years after the beginning of the conflict in Vietnam, he led various flight
training programs and helped build the flight training program at the Air Force Academy. Two years
later, he received orders for combat crew training in preparation for tactical air reconnaissance missions
in Vietnam’s theater of operation. In 1967 James was assigned to the 11th Tactical Reconnaissance
Squadron, based in Thailand. Over a period of 169 days, James marked the completion of his 100th
mission over North and South Vietnam, an unprecedented accomplishment in such a short period of
time. The dangerous missions he completed helped to contribute to the key strategies during the war,
saving countless lives. Throughout his tour in enemy skies, he was a highly decorated RF-4C Pilot which
included the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Defense
Meritorious Service Medal, and the Air Medal. Through all the anxiety accompanied with these missions,
James held firm to his beliefs and faith, able to look into his future with the confidence that he was in
the hands of someone much bigger than himself. Even after his combat tours, he continued to hold
senior command positions until his retirement in 1984. After retiring from the Air Force, he was the
comptroller at Cross Publishing, a Christian publishing company providing books and accessories to
Christian bookstores around the country. James was a devoted husband, loving father, grandfather, and
great-grandfather. He was a generous mentor and a quick friend to all he met.
“In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, website: alzfdn.org”
Celebration of Life service will be held on Tuesday, October 4, 2022 at 12:00 pm in the Brooks Family Chapel of the North Dallas Funeral Home, 2710 Valley View Lane, Dallas, TX 75234. The family will be greeting visitors from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm for visitation and viewing.
Graveside services, with military honors, will follow at 2:30 pm at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery, 2000 Mountain Creek Parkway, Dallas, TX 75211.
Services will be held on Tuesday October 4, 2022 at North Dallas Funeral Home.
Visitation will begin at11:00am
Memorial Service at 12:00pm
led by Dr. Timothy Warren.
James Edward Gilliland, Col, USAF, (Retired) will be laid to rest at the
Dallas-Fort Worth National Veterans Memorial
Cemetery with Full Military Honors at 2:30pm.
Services have been entrusted to
North Dallas Funeral Home
2710 Valley View Lane
Dallas Texas 75234
2710 Valley View Ln,
Farmers Branch, TX 75234
John P. Brooks receiving the Retirement Flag from Col. James E. Gilliland.
“What an honor to have known such an amazing man” John P. Brooks
It was such a nice pleasure to meet you, and what you had planned for my father just took my breath away. It was so special to hear you tell us how he would just come over to talk with you. I think it brought him much comfort. Tha you for putting that Air Force article of him on your website. I am going to have a replica made of the painting of his plane to give you. Thank you again for all you have done to honor our dad. Love, The Gillilands
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