SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) – In about a week, city leaders in Smyrna will officially unveil the U.S. Captain Jeff Kuss Memorial.
On Friday, crane operators had the tedious task of lifting a jet like the one Kuss was flying and placing it at the site of the memorial.
After sitting in a hanger over at the Smyrna Airport for about a year now, the retired Blue Angel F/A-18C Hornet is in its final home.
It’s on loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
“Watching that crane lift that plane up on to the pedestal has been very cathartic and helped us get through this process that we’ve been dealing with for the past two years,” said Smyrna Mayor Mary Esther Reed.
There was anticipation as the jet was being harnessed into the air with precision by crane operators.
“It was at a seven-degree angle so both plates had to match up exactly,” said MaxIm Cranes operator Arnold Pewiett.
It was as if Captain Jeff Kuss took flight over Smyrna one last time.
“It’s just been an incredible journey, from the air show to getting the airplane to getting it all in place,” said Smyrna Airport Manager John Black.
People wanted to show their support and being here gave them a sense of comfort.
“It’s important to the people in Smyrna to show appreciation of how Capt. Kuss died and he’s going to be remembered,” said Smyrna resident Donna Shelton. “He’s never going to be forgotten in Smyrna.”
June 2, 2016, is a day people like Lloyd Gentry won’t soon forget. He and his son were in their front yard when Capt. Kuss crashed.
“Tears come to my eyes,” Gentry said. “I knew what had happened. I saw the flames, I heard the ground rumble. It was a tragic accident, and I just hope that nothing like that ever happens again in Smyrna.”
Sitting the jet on the pedestal and bolting it into place closes another chapter in the healing process.
“Today is the next step in that process,” Reed said. “Next Saturday at the dedication I hope that brings us full circle in the healing process. The Blue Angels have been a part of the Town of Smyrna since 1970, and now this is going to live long after each one of us are of this earth.”
Workers are putting the final touches on the memorial. It is expected to be unveiled June 9 at 10 a.m.
After the jet was put in place, four F-18 Jets from a base in San Diego did an unofficial flyover as they left the Smyrna Airport heading back to California.