Town raises nearly $1 million to remember fallen Blue Angels aviatior

US Marine Captian Jeff Kuss

A Tennessee town that has grown to love the US Navy’s Blue Angels and felt the shock when they bore witness to the fatal crash of Blue Angel #6 in 2016 is moving closer to their goal of building a memorial to honor the fallen Naval Aviator.

The town of Smyrna is only a few thousands of dollars away from their goal of $1 million, the amount it will take to build a memorial to honor US Marine Captain and Blue Angels pilot Jeff Kuss, who was killed when his plane crashed in June of last year during a practice run for the Great Tennessee Air Show.

Raising money any way they could, Smyrna Mayor Esther Reed said that over $965,000 has been raised.

“I wondered how we would raise $1 million, but four months later, here we are,” Reed told the estimated 2,000 in attendance at a fundraising event on Saturday. “This memorial could not happen without you.”

The town of Smyrna has a rather affectionate relationship with the Blue Angels, who regularly grace the skies over the Volunteer State for one of the region’s biggest airshows.

“If you live in Smryna or work in Smryna, you hear those engines rev up,” Reed said. “You will see people all over Smyrna on rooftops, in backyards, in schoolyards out to watch the Blue Angels.”

The mayor said the town felt a collective heartbreak when Kuss’ plane went down during a “Split S” maneuver, exploding into a ball of flame.

“It was as if we lost a family member,” she said.

In response to their loss, the townspeople wanted to remember Captain Kuss with a physical memorial that they could visit and pay respects to.

“The one thing we started hearing was, ‘what are we going to do?’” the mayor said. “What are we going to do as a community to celebrate Jeff Kuss’ life?”

In response, the town planned a memorial involving a static display F/A-18C Hornet, painted in Blue Angel #6’s livery, which is on loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum in Florida.

According to the Daily News Journal, thousands of Smyrna residents lined the streets as the plane arrived into the town in May. A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for next month, with an official grand unveiling scheduled for June of next year.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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