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Smyrna dedicates memorial to fallen Blue Angels pilot


A memorial was dedicated to a Blue Angels pilot who died in a crash in Smyrna two years ago.

A crowd gathered on Saturday at Memorial at Lee Victory Recreation Park for the ceremony. That’s where a Blue Angel F/A-18C Hornet is now on permanent loan from the national naval aviation museum in Pensacola, Florida.

It will forever remind citizens of the courage, honor, and legacy of Capt. Jeff Kuss.

Kuss died last June when his jet crashed during a practice run for the Great Tennessee Air Show in Smyrna. It’s a day many will never forget.

“I was flying that day with him on June 2nd, and I actually saw him go in and it’s been a very challenging two years for all of us just like it has been here,” explained Kuss’ partner Capt. Ryan Bernacchi.

Saturday’s ceremony offered healing for the community. It included a special flyover by Capt. Kuss’ former marine fighter attack squadron, The Checkerboards.

Active and retired military were also on hand to pay their respects, along with Capt. Kuss’ wife, Christina. This was her first visit to Smyrna since her life was changed forever by her husband’s death.

Capt. Kuss was a decorated pilot who accumulated more than 1,400 flight hours and 175 carrier landings. He also served in Afghanistan and earned the Strike Flight Air Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal during his time in the military.

Kuss later joined the U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron in September 2014 and flew as Opposing Solo for the 2016 team.