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58 FS honors former Gorilla

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Savannah Stephens
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

The 58th Fighter Squadron honored retired Air Force Lt. Col. George “Buckshot” McKinney, Jr., after his passing on May 15, 2019 during a gathering in the squadron heritage room on May 28, 2019.

                George McKinney’s last wish was to fly with the 58 FS in an F-35A Lightning II over Eglin AFB. He requested that his family not host a formal funeral or memorial service, but instead honor him in the fighter squadron.

                “To honor him by bringing him home to you, to the 58th, and the Air Force he loved is more than I could’ve ever asked for,” said Tambrie McKinney, widow of George McKinney.

                Capt. Matthew Powell, 58 FS Instructor Pilot, flew George McKinney’s ashes and an American flag in his honor on May 28, 2019 over the Gulf Coast. Powell met George McKinney over 10 years ago prior to joining the Air Force and gained a mentor through their friendship.

                “It was humbling when I deployed to have him as a mentor,” said Powell. “When his last request was to fly with the 58th I knew we had to do it. He helped me so much over the years and it was an honor to fly him one last time.”

                George McKinney was part of the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing three separate times until he retired from Eglin AFB. He and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Darrell Simmonds were the first F-4 crew to shoot down two MiG-17s on one mission in Vietnam making history.

                He flew the 2,000th F-4 Phantom, tail number 66-7533, until Sept. 19, 1967 when he took a 57mm shell to the aircraft and was shot down south of Hanoi, Vietnam. McKinney safely ejected 35 miles from base and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, which was presented by former U.S. President Lyndon B. Jonson, for his airmanship in trying to save the airplane.

                Following the gathering, Tambrie McKinney presented the 58 FS with her late husband’s flight jacket framed, including his 100 missions in Vietnam patch, to be hung in the squadron.

                “I know he’s going to live on through each of you in this squadron,” said McKinney. “This was a good day, this was a great day.”