SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) — Wednesday marks five years since Blue Angels pilot, Marine Captain Jeff Kuss, was killed when his jet crashed while practicing for the Great Tennessee Air Show in Smyrna.
Captain Kuss died while flying as Blue Angel #6 on June 2, 2016. A husband and father of two, Kuss was only 32 years old at the time.
The town of Smyrna will be forever linked with the tragic loss of Captain Kuss. Mayor Mary Ester Reed told News 2 losing him was like losing a family member.
Mayor Reed speaks with Capt. Kuss’ mom often. His family visited the memorial prior to its opening and at first, did not understand why a town with little connection to him would invest a million dollars into such a lasting tribute. But for Mayor Reed, the military has always been a foundation for the community.
“The community wanted to do something to honor Capt. Jeff Kuss, but also to honor service members, so to think in five years, we have worked with to get a plane here, to get a memorial built, I think that’s something the community is very proud of,” explained Mayor Reed.
The memorial features a F/A-18C Hornet, emblazoned with Kuss’ plane number, which was donated by the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida.
City leaders encourage everyone to visit the Capt. Kuss Memorial in Lee Victory Park on Sam Ridley Parkway. The site is not only a tribute to Capt. Kuss, but a memorial for all military members.
“The one thing I can tell you is this community pulls together in a tragedy this community pulls together what needs to be done logistically for an accident like that, but it also pulls together emotionally, and I think that’s what you see consistently with the town of Smyrna, we are so very sorry for the loss of those families and our hearts and prayers go out to them,” said Mayor Reed.
First responders laid a wreath at the memorial just before sunrise Wednesday. It will stay in place until sunset to honor Capt. Kuss’ legacy. The Great Tennessee Air Show will celebrate its 50th anniversary in Smyrna this weekend.