Cover photo for Mark Stephens Race's Obituary
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1946 Mark Stephens Race 2023

Mark Stephens Race

December 20, 1946 — November 19, 2023

It is with great sadness, we announce the passing of Colonel (Ret) Mark Stephens Race, USAF, a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and friend on November, 19th 2023 at the age of 76.

Mark was born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania on December 20th, 1946, the son of the late Donald Henry and Margaret Stephens Race. He grew up with his sister Kathy, in both Ithaca and Camillus, New York and spent his summers with aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins in Crystal Lake, Pennsylvania. He attended high school in Camillus where he was a talented athlete playing baseball and football. He was also in the high school play, where he met the girl that would become his forever “sweetpea” Pat.

Mark attended Syracuse University where he was a proud member of Delta Tau Delta, graduating with a degree in Geography in 1968. He was commissioned into the United States Air Force and completed pilot training at Craig AFB in Selma, Alabama. He and Pat were married in 1969.

The couple moved to Charleston AFB, South Carolina, where Mark began flying the aircraft he loved most, the C-141. This aircraft took him on his first trip overseas and sparked what would become a lifetime of love of travel.

Mark was assigned to Nakhon Phanom RTAFB, Thailand, where he flew 86 combat missions in the EC-47 over South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Upon returning stateside, he continued to fly the C-141 as an instructor pilot at Altus AFB, Oklahoma. Mark completed his master’s degree in Public Administration from Webster University and was then assigned to McGuire AFB, New Jersey as a standardization/ evaluation pilot for the C-141 and was the first pilot at Headquarters 21st Air Force to become air refueling qualified.

In 1982, Mark was stationed at RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom, where he was the Chief of the Airlift Coordination Center. In 1984, he crisscrossed the skies in C-23s while assigned to the newly formed 10th MAS in Zweibrucken, Germany as First Operations Officer. It was there he picked up the moniker “The Rat”.

He was next assigned to Andrews AFB, Maryland as Commander of Det 8 flying C-22’s. He was promoted to Colonel and attended Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama in 1988.

Later in his career, Mark established himself as a respected leader within the special operations community, planning and executing elite programs. He was Airborne Senior Special Operations Forces (SOF) Commander for Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) Operation Just Cause and the Air Component Commander for JSOC in Desert Storm. He oversaw the evacuation of over 2100 people out of Sierra Leone and participated in numerous other missions.

His final active-duty assignment, was at Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) as Chief of Contingency Operations, Hurlburt Field, Florida. After retiring in 1998, Mark continued to serve special operations as a technology integration expert. In 2018 he was inducted into the Air Commando Hall of Fame.

Logging over 5200 flying hours, his awards and decorations include the Air Achievement Medal, Air Medal with 2 OLC, Defense Meritorious Medal with 3 OLC, Bronze Star with Valor, Distinguished Flying Cross and Defense Service Medal.

 Mark retired in Asheville, North Carolina after 30 years of service to special operations and the Air Force. He will forever be remembered for his integrity and sense of fairness. He was an avid hiker, a voracious reader, and a loyal friend. He was known as a spirited raconteur, with an encyclopedic knowledge of history. He was always up for anything, from “going on a lion hunt”, to a spontaneous road trip. He loved all things involving his family and beloved grandchildren.

He leaves behind his family he so loved who will forever cherish his memory; his wife of 54 years, his “sweetpea” Pat, daughter Kimberly and husband Michael Verdi and grandchildren Dylan and McKenna, daughter Kelly and husband Joe Garcia and grandchildren Gabriel and Lily, son Christopher Race, and devoted sister Kathleen and husband William Miller.

Services to celebrate Mark’s life will take place on Wednesday, May 1st, 2024 at 11am, Old Post Chapel at Fort Myer, Virginia followed by interment at Arlington National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Special Operations Association, , the American Cancer Society, or a charity of your choice.

Condolence messages and remembrances may be shared with his family at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Mark Stephens Race, please visit our flower store.


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