A hurting family and community came together Saturday morning to celebrate the life of a Blue Angel, who made his final flight far too soon.
Two years ago this month, Captain Jeff Kuss crashed while training for the Great Tennessee Air Show.
Saturday the event’s host city is turning the site of that tragedy into one of triumph, making sure Jeff’s memory stays alive at Lee Victory Park.
Those who knew and loved the American hero and decorated pilot didn’t know how they would feel coming back to the scene of the devastating 2016 crash that took his life.
“I was here the day Jeff died, the kids and I were about an hour out of town when I was notified of the crash,” recalls his wife, Christina Kuss.
“I was flying that day with him, I saw him go in,” said Captain Ryan Bernacchi. “It’s been a very challenging two years for all of us just like it has been here for this community.”
But instead of pain and sorrow, comfort and joy washed over his family, friends, and fellow Blue Angels as they watched a moving and beautiful dedication in his honor at Lee Victory Park.
“Talking about Jeff, I’m a proud mom,” says Janet Kuss.
“Today, or this whole weekend, has energized me.”
His memorial, the F/A 18-C Blue Angel Hornet., on permanent loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
It’s an emotional sight that will serve as a permanent reminder of the character, passion, and talent Jeff represented each and every in his service.
“I see more than Jeff, I see a community that was hurting and came together and built something that will last ,” says Janet. “My boy will be remembered forever, what more could you ask for?”
“Seeing the way his legacy has been so powerfully placed here, and what it will mean for so many going forward, it brings a lot of healing, it brings some purpose to it all,” adds Bernacchi.
“The way to honor him is to live well, and remember him forever,” says Christina.
The nearly $1.5 million memorial was paid for by donations that poured in not only from Smyrna and Rutherford County, but from the entire country.