Gene Quick was able and proud to serve

Col. (Ret) Gene Quick, a fighter pilot during Vietnam War, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and The Air Medal for his service. (Contributed)

Col. (Ret) Gene Quick, a fighter pilot during Vietnam War, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and The Air Medal for his service. (Contributed)

By PHOEBE DONALD ROBINSON / Community Columnist

Col. (Ret.) Gene Willard Quick grew up in a family committed to public service.

His mother, Fay Falkner Quick, was the first female elected to public office as Shelby County tax collector.

His grandfather James Jefferson Falkner and Uncle Kirk Falkner were Shelby County sheriffs in the 1920s.

His mother’s brother-in-law Bun White was also sheriff.

Quick’s first cousins are Shelby County Commissioner Dan Acker and former Columbiana Mayor Buck Falkner.

“My mother was a single mom and she had a huge influence on my character and life,” said Quick. “One of the main motivations in my life was to make her proud.”

Quick graduated from SCHS in 1958 and graduated from Auburn University in forestry and ROTC in 1963.

All his life, Quick wanted to fly fighter airplanes. After graduation, Quick was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and entered pilot training.

For the next few years, Quick trained in the F-4 and was deployed to Vietnam in March 1966 with the 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron.

After Vietnam, Quick became an instructor pilot. In 1970 Capt. Quick ended his active tour in the U.S. Air Force and joined the Florida Air National Guard in Jacksonville, Fla., where he flew in the air defense of the southeast USA.

“I flew up to my last day of retirement,” said Quick. “Over the years I flew the F-4, T-37, F-102, F-106 and F-16. I remember on Good Friday 1987, I was ‘Flight Lead’ off the coast of Florida when my Wing Man and I intercepted a Soviet antisubmarine warfare plane, the first encounter of F-16 with a Russian ‘Bear’. We escorted the plane out of U.S. air space and he flew back to Cuba.”

Col. Quick retired on Dec. 31, 1989. Among his many medals are the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal.

“I was able to serve and extremely proud to have served,” said Quick. “I feel that every citizen is obligated to serve our country in some way. But there is a smaller group who are absolutely committed to serving in the military. I would go back tomorrow if I could.”