Admission is free for seating on the stadium’s east (visitors’) side, and a concession stand will be open, but the air show can be seen from almost any vantage point in west Gilmer.
The 8:30 p.m. aerial program. jointly presented by the supermarket chain and the local Flight of the Phoenix Museum, will feature “Team FENIX.” It will honor one of America’s most highly honored Navy Seals, Chief Petty Officer Billy Machen of Gilmer, the first Seal killed in action in the Vietnam War.
Following the air show, Dr. Phil and Road Kill Hill Productions will present a musical tribute to “The Greatest Generation”—World War II veterans, and the recent 70th anniversary of D-Day. Sirius XM Radio created the music program.
The narration and music will be simulcast on 95.7 FM radio.
The fireworks, sponsored by the East Texas Yamboree Assn., will conclude the program, scheduled to end at 9:45 p.m.
Presenting the airshow will be Team Fenix members Steve Afeman of McKinney and Carl Best of Plano, with Steve Dean of the local Flight of the Phoenix Museum narrating on the ground.
They will honor Machen, who died Aug. 19, 1966.
The Airshow Program will begin promptly at 8:30 p.m. in the skies over Buckeye Stadium. The event may be viewed from almost any vantage point in west Gilmer, while the music and narration will be simulcast on 95.7 FM radio.
Buckeye Stadium provides good seating and concessions on the east side (visitors side) and admission is free.
Following the air show, there will be a musical tribute to World War II veterans, the greatest generation, and the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The musical program will be created by Sirius XM radio and presented by Dr. Phil and Road Kill Hill Productions.
The grand fireworks show sponsored by the East Texas Yamboree will follow the musical tribute. Beginning with the air show at 8:30 p.m., the entire program is expected to run until 9:45 p.m.
Navy Seals trace their beginning as Navy Frogmen, UDT’s, OSS Swimmers, and Combat Demolition Teams during WWII; and later during the Korean War.
Present-day Seals can trace their official beginning to President John F. Kennedy and to their deployment as America’s first combat teams deployed during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Soon they were conducting commando ops, hand-to-hand combat and riverine operations in South Vietnam. They were also training the commando units of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.
“On 19 August, 1966, Seal Team One and the United States of America suffered its first Seal casualty of the Vietnam War: Petty Officer Billy Machen from Gilmer, who was with Seal Team One. They were patrolling an enemy infested jungle section of the Dinh Ba River near the village of Nha Be, some 20 miles southwest of Saigon; Machen was point man for his patrol when he came to a clearing in the jungle growth.
He halted the patrol and moved ahead into the opening to reconnoiter. Pausing to search the surrounding area, he suddenly spotted several VC guerillas. Rather than retreat and seek cover, Machen initiated fire, forcing the VC to trigger their ambush early.
The resulting hail of fire from both banks of the river alerted Billy’s fellow Seals to the danger, allowing them to take cover, return fire, and engage to suppress the VC attack.
Machen was mortally wounded by enemy gunfire in the initial fusillade.”
For sacrificing his own life for those of his shipmates, Billy was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest medal for valor.
More recently, the Desert Warfare Training Facility in California was renamed Camp Billy Machen and dedicated to honor Gilmer’s own.
Camp Billy Machen stands as silent tribute to Machen for his bravery, his patriotism, his devotion to duty, and to his fellow Seals.
Ironically, Camp Billy Machen was the final training base for Seal Team Six and served as the launching pad to Abbottabad, Pakistan for Operation Neptune Spear against al- Quaeda, to capture and kill Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011. OBL was the mastermind of the terrorist 9/11 attack upon the United States
From Gilmer’s Billy Machen, the first Navy Seal killed in action in Vietnam, to the Seals who trained at Camp Billy Machen and struck the decisive blow, cutting off the head of the terrorist extremists; U.S. Navy Seal Teams are a force to be respected and honored, said Steve Dean of the Flight of the Phoenix Museum.
Leading Team FENIX in his Pacific Theater Deep Blue U.S. Navy SNJ is Steve Afeman, from McKinney.
Steve has owned and flown his 1944 SNJ-5 for over 20 years. One of the rare SNJ-5’s flying today, Steve’s J-Bird served the Naval Air Training Command at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida during World War II. The aircraft is painted in a 3- color Navy scheme, used in the Pacific Theater of Operations during WWII.
Steve started flying as a teenager, and soon became interested in aviation as a vocation. He worked his way up through the pilot ranks first as freight dog and finally as captain on a major U.S. airline. Today he is Chief Pilot and Jet Fleet Manager for a prominent Texas corporate air freight company at Love Field in Dallas.
Afeman bases his J-Bird at Aero Country Airport near McKinney. Steve and his wife Kim, formerly a flight attendant for a major airline, have one daughter, Elizabeth, a senior at Stephenville High School.
Flying in the wingman position is Carl Best from Plano.
Carl comes from a flying family. His parents, Henry and Dorothy Best, purchased their T-6G in April of 1966 and Carl began riding around with them in the back seat at the tender age of 5 years old. The family still owns the original T-6, which Carl flies regularly.
Starting flying lessons in 1979, Carl completed his pilot certificate in 1986. He started air-show flying T-6’s in 1988, and has amassed over 2,000 hours in type. He began flying with the Flight of the Phoenix Escadrille in 2000.
The Training Command Bright Yellow T-6G Carl is flying today was acquired in December, 2009. It was built in Dallas in 1945 as an AT-6D and initially served at Perrin Air Force Base in Sherman. It was remanufactured into a T-6G in Columbus, OH in 1951 and served at various Air Force bases throughout the southwest training pilots for the Cold War.
The yellow T-6 was retired from USAF service in 1956 and given to the French Air Force under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. It was modified into a ground attack airplane and used in Algeria. After it was retired from French service, it was repatriated into the United States. This airplane was previously owned by Ben Cunningham of Jackson, Miss., one of the founders of the North American Aerobatic Team that later evolved into the AeroShell Aerobatic Team.
Carl bases his yellow T-6G at Aero Country Airport, a private fly-in community in McKinney. Carl is vice president of the Aero Country Property Owners Association. His day job is a commercial insurance account executive.
Both planes have a rich history of training American and Allied forces since the beginning of WW II. North American Aircraft was also the builder of the P-51 Mustang and the Mitchell B-25 Bomber.
Aleman and Best, along with their team leader, Steve Dean, join with all the citizens of Gilmer to pay special honor and tribute to Chief Petty Officer Machen, to U.S. Navy Seals, to all U.S. men and women serving in uniform, and to the veterans and families of those who served.
To further honor Billy Machen and his signal contribution to American history, the Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum is developing a memorial park on Machen Lane west of the city on Lake Gilmer, at the site of Billy Machen’s traditional family home-place.