SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Blue Angels jet that will be soon be the centerpiece of a memorial for fallen pilot Capt. Jeff Kuss arrived in Smyrna on Thursday.
The F/A-18C-25-MC Hornet, emblazoned with Kuss’ plane number, was driven to Tennessee all the way from Pensacola, Florida.
The jet was escorted by Smyrna police from Interstate 65 and onto I-840, where several troopers then joined and created a procession.
Drivers pulled to the side of the road as a sign of respect as the Blue Angels jet passed, and once it reached Smyrna, residents lined the Lowry Street to honor Capt. Kuss.
Sharron Lorraine, who was at today’s event, told News 2 she has attended every airshow in Smyrna for the last 20 years.
She said watching the jet passing through town had very special meaning to her because she was watching as Captain Kuss’ plane went down.
Lorraine said she was at first in disbelief, but then she called her mother to explain what happened and they both broke down in tears.
“We all talked about it for a long time and still do. But it was a tragedy. That day everyone’s heart was broke. My mother cried over the phone with me. I said mom did you hear it? I said a Blue Angel crashed. She said no, no it can’t happen. But I said it did and we both cried,” said Lorraine.
News 2 also spoke with a veteran named Larry Montgomery, who served in the Marine Corps Missile Unit from 1970 to 1976. He has attended every airshow in Smyrna since 1985.
Montgomery said Kuss’ plane crashed two blocks away from his house. He described that emotional moment when he and his neighbors realized something was horribly wrong.
“Everyone on our street, we were all lining the street. Everyone was praying and crying and hoping for the best and unfortunately it was the worst,” said Montgomery.
“Fortunately, Captain Kuss was the one flying that plane because he had a choice to eject but he choose to stay with the aircraft to make sure he didn’t hit a populated air,” he continued.
“I don’t know that there will ever be closure, but at least now people can come and show their respects and know what took place and honor this man and what he did,” added Montgomery.
For now, the jet will be housed at a hangar at the Smyrna airport where the public was invited to see it up and close and personal.
Ultimately, the Blue Angels jet will be the centerpiece for an illuminated Captain Jeff Kuss Memorial at Lee Victory Recreation Park.
The city is hoping to raise $1,000,000 for the memorial. Below are all the ways to donate:
- Text “Jeff” to 71777
- Click here to donate online
- In person cash/checks at Town Hall, 315 S. Lowry Street in Smyrna
- Franklin Synergy Bank, 724 President Place in Smyrna
Three levels of personalized pavers are available for purchase with your donation. All or part of your gift may be tax deductible as a charitable contribution.
A website was also established to share more about the planned memorial and Capt. Kuss’ life, as well as photos of him and his family. Click here to check it out.
Kuss tragically lost his life last June when his jet went down in a fiery crash just days before the Great Tennessee Airshow. He leaves behind a wife and two young children.