Last Friday (6/1/2018), a 350-ton crane was used to lift the 21,600 pound F/A-18C Hornet from a flatbed trailer truck to a memorial pedestal at the entrance to the Lee Victory Recreation Park. That aircraft is now fixed to the podium and it will memorialize the Blue Angel pilot who lost his life in a crash prior to an air show in Smyrna in 2016.
A special service for Blue Angel Captain Jeff Kuss will take place this Saturday in Smyrna. The memorial dedication will be held on June 9 at 10:00 a.m. at Lee Victory Recreation Park in Smyrna and it is open the public.
The dedication ceremony is expected to last approximately one hour and will feature an F/A-18C Hornet flyover by Captain Kuss's former Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 (VMFA-312), the Checkerboards, led by Major Kyle Reilly, flight lead and mission commander.
The dedication program will also feature guest speakers who include Commander Mike Campbell, President of the Blue Angels Foundation, Captain Ryan Bernacchi, the Director of Chief and Naval Air Training (CNATRA), and Christina Kuss, wife of Captain Jeff Kuss. Music will be provided by the Stewarts Creek High School Band and Chorale. In addition, active and retired military personnel from the Marines, Navy, and Blue Angels will be in attendance to pay tribute to Captain Jeff Kuss.
"This will be a special day in history for the Town of Smyrna and its people, as well as for the Kuss family, and I am encouraging everyone to come be a part of it," said Smyrna Mayor Mary Esther Reed. "Raising money for the $1.4 million memorial was a grassroots effort that began in Smyrna and Rutherford County, then expanded throughout the state and culminated with donations from across the country."
Dedication 10AM June 9, 2018
The Blue Angel aircraft is on permanent loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida and will be on display as part of the US Marine Corps Memorial dedicated to Marine Captain Jeff Kuss who on June 2, 2016, at the age of 32, lost his life in a tragic in-flight accident while flying as Blue Angel #6 in practice for the Great Tennessee Air Show.
The memorial dedication will be held on June 9 at 10:00 a.m. at Lee Victory Recreation Park in Smyrna and is open the public.
About Captain Jeff Kuss, USMC
Marine Captain Jeff Kuss was a decorated pilot who, through his career, accumulated more than 1,400 flight hours and 175 carrier landings. Captain Kuss served in Afghanistan and earned the Strike Flight Air Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal during his time in the military. He joined the U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron in September 2014 and flew as Opposing Solo for the 2016 team.
Kuss, a native of Durango, Colorado, was a decorated pilot who served in Afghanistan and had accumulated more than 1,400 flight hours and 175 landings on aircraft carriers.
As a child, Kuss dreamed of being a pilot and obtained his pilot's license before his driver's license. After graduating from Fort Lewis College, Kuss was commissioned as a Second
Lieutenant in the Marine Corps and reported to Pensacola, Fla. in 2007. He earned his wings of gold in 2009 and later graduated from the Navy Fighter Weapon School, also known as "Top Gun," in 2012.
While serving in Afghanistan, Kuss earned the Strike Flight Air Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. In 2014, he joined the U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron.
On June 2, 2016, at the age of 32, Kuss tragically lost his life when his jet crashed a day before The Great Tennessee Air Show in Smyrna. Kuss is survived by his wife, Christina, children Calvin and Sloane, parents Janet and Michael, and brother Eric.
Ways to Contribute
- Online at CaptJeffKussUSMCMemorial.com
- MobileCause: Text Jeff to 71777
- In person at the Smyrna Town Hall or any Franklin Synergy Bank