Captain Gary W. Vance enlisted into the Oklahoma Army National Guard in May 1958 and after graduation from high school in 1959 entered six months active duty, then returned to his local Oklahoma National Guard unit. In December 1960 he transferred to an Army Special Forces Reserve unit in Stillwater, Oklahoma, while attending Oklahoma State University.
In 1961 he attended the Infantry Officer Candidate School and Army Airborne Course, Fort Benning, Georgia. After graduation from Oklahoma State University, a second lieutenant, he attended Pathfinder School and in 1965 was accepted for fixed-wing flight school. While in flight school he saved the life of a passenger who survived a plane crash on the airfield. For his actions he was awarded the Soldiers Medal.
In 1966 he was ordered to Vietnam where he flew 800 missions. For his service he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Bronze Star Medals, 36 Air Medals, Army Commendation with V for Valor and the Parachutist, Army Aviator and Pathfinder Badges; two Vietnam Gallantry Crosses, one with Silver Star and one with two Palms. He is active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and veterans affairs.