SMYRNA, Tenn. — After raising over $1 million in less than a year, the Town of Smyrna is finally breaking ground on the Capt. Jeff Kuss Memorial at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18.
The groundbreaking will be held at the memorial site, located in front of Lee Victory Recreation Park, 110 Sam Ridley Parkway.
“To me it will be very much a celebration of an American hero and this is a culmination of hard work and love from a community,” said Smyrna Mayor Mary Esther Reed. “It’s a sad reason to have this, but it’s exciting to be able to honor someone like Jeff Kuss and I think that’s the way our community feels.”
Blue Angels Capt. Jeff Kuss died when he crashed during a practice run on June 2 for the 2016 Great Tennessee Air Show at Smyrna Airport. The event rocked the community that had welcomed the Blue Angels for four decades.
Rear Admiral Jimmie Taylor, a former Blue Angel boss, will speak at the groundbreaking. Stewarts Creek High School Choir will perform.
The centerpiece of the memorial will be an F/A-18C Hornet, similar to one flown by the Blue Angels. On display during Saturday’s event, the jet is on loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., home base for the flight demonstration team. The jet, however, will remain in storage until closer to the installation date in summer 2018.
Reed expects a big crowd at the groundbreaking.
“There have been so many people who have been a part of making it happen. We want to make sure they are included in the groundbreaking,” Reed said.
Christina Kuss will not be able to attend the groundbreaking for her late husband’s memorial, but she is aware and it very pleased with the efforts, Reed said.
“She’s excited to one day be able to show their children, Calvin and Sloane, this project and we hope she will be here for the ribbon cutting next June,” Reed said.
While not everyone will be able to attend the groundbreaking, the construction process will be something the entire community can witness as it evolves, Reed said. Bromac Construction was awarded the bid for the project, she added.
“People will be able to see it constructed from start to finish,” Reed said. “The community has been a project from day one, in letting the council know they wanted to see something in honor of Capt. Jeff Kuss. As a committee, we’ve tried to keep the community involved in fundraising and through the arrival of the plane, and then having the plane at the Rotary fish fry, and now they get to be a part of the construction every day.”