Leonard Funderburk was born on January 4, 1947, in Monroe, North Carolina. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Reserve on May 13, 1968, and entered Officer Training School at Lackland AFB, Texas, on June 24, 1968. Funderburk was commissioned a 2d Lt on September 24, 1968, and completed Undergraduate Pilot Training and was awarded his pilot wings in October 1969 at Webb AFB, Texas. He then completed OV-10 Bronco Combat Crew Training before being assigned as a Forward Air Controller with the 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron (TASS) at Bien Hoa AB in the Republic of Vietnam from August to September 1970, followed by service with the 20th TASS at Da Nang AB from September to December 1970, and finally with the 23rd TASS at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from December 1970 to August 1971. After completing instructor pilot training, Lt Funderburk served with the 43rd Flying Training Squadron at Craig AFB, Alabama, from December 1971 to October 1975. He served at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, from December 1975 to July 1977, followed by Davis Monthan AFB, Arizona, from July 1977 to November 1980. After completing F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training, Capt Funderburk served at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, from August 1981 to June 1982, and then as an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot and as Chief of the Airspace Management Division for the 343rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Eielson AFB, Alaska, until September 1984. Maj Funderburk then served at George AFB, California, before retiring from the Air Force on June 30, 1988.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Section 8742, Title 10, United States Code, awards the Air Force Cross to Captain (then First Lieutenant) Leonard J. Funderburk for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as a Forward Air Controller in Southeast Asia on 22 March 1971. On that date, Captain Funderburk flew his lightly armed observation aircraft into an extremely hostile air environment to support beleaguered allied ground forces during Operation Lam Son 719. When Captain Funderburk arrived on scene, a column of ten enemy tanks had already begun the final assault on friendly forces. Captain Funderburk requested tactical strike aircraft to protect the friendly forces from being decimated by the vastly superior firepower of the enemy. Realizing the life or death situation of the allies, Captain Funderburk, with complete disregard for his personal safety, rolled in repeatedly on the advancing enemy tanks, armed only with marking rockets. He succeeded in halting the enemy for a few precious minutes, and most of their fire was diverted to himself. Despite some of the most intense ground fire ever experienced, Captain Funderburk repeatedly made marking passes for the strike aircraft until the advancing tanks were halted. The results from strikes directed by Captain Funderburk were three tanks destroyed and at least 1300 allied lives saved. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Captain Funderburk reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.