Sunday, June 5, 2016

As I Get Older...

I am still pretty torn up over the loss of Captain Jeff Kuss of the Blue Angels last Thursday. The WSO and I chatted about that on Saturday, she too is pretty rattled by the loss. Of course, she's a lot closer to the situation than I. See that lead-in photo? That's The WSO, granddaughter Little Bit, granddaughter L'il Sweetie being held by her Dad, who is, of course, my son-in-law Big Time, standing with the Blue Angels. That photo wasn't taken all that long ago.

That's Captain Kuss, second from the left. The WSO said he was a really great guy, everything I've seen and read about this tragic accident leads me to believe her impression of the man was spot on. He leaves behind a wife and two young kids. Should you feel the urge, there is a Go Fund Me page set up for Jeff's family. A worthwhile cause for sure. It's here, should you be so inclined to chip in.

My good friend The Skipper has a very nice post up as well, you should read it. He was in the fighter pilot game his whole career, he knows the cost, he knows the pain felt by those who are left behind. Last Thursday was indeed "a horrible, no-good, rotten day."

In that photo, from left to right (excluding The WSO and her tribe) are -

I thought at the time how cool it was that the kids also met the Blues first female pilot, Captain Katie Higgins. Big Time and LT Talbott (the slot pilot, #4), were squadron mates in VFA-136 a while back. I believe The WSO said that he went through flight school about the same time as one of the other Blues, though he didn't know him at the time. She forgot which one. (She's getting like her old man, suffers from CRS from time to time.)

I swear as I get older I tend to get more maudlin about these things. When I was younger, and it happened to guys I knew, it wasn't as hard. I guess I understood it to be the way things were. Sometimes you lose people, it sucks but you have to shake it off and drive on.

But now these folks we lose are my kids' age. It just doesn't feel right. Heck, one of the kids who went to high school with The Nuke in the Netherlands just got back from Afghanistan and I think he's headed back that way soon. So the guys I served with also have kids serving. Talk about "the family business." Thing is, I've got a big, extended family. Those "kids" out there now? I feel like they're my kids. It gets personal sometimes. Far too often these days.

I've added Jeff to the header, seems to me like he belongs up there. The Blues have always been my favorites, even though I wore Air Force blue for 24 years. I've loved the Blues since I was a little boy and loved them from the first time I saw them. When they were flying these -

F-11F Tigers of the Blue Angels (Source)

They flew those from 1957 - 1968 and I think I saw them around 1960, if I was to venture a guess. You know what they say, you never forget your first. It gets tougher as I get older.

First Lex, then Nate, then Taj, and now Jeff Kuss.

Yeah, it's personal.


See you on the other side Captain. Semper Fi.


  1. I'm not so sure that it isn't just that we have allowed our feelings to reach a little closer to the surface.
    I find myself unable to speak without a catch in my voice and there seems to be a lot more dust in the wind.

  2. As we get older, we realize we don't need to be stoic all the time IMO.

  3. In part it's the curse of improved safety. When the airwing was losing an average of six aviators killed per anum the shock was less because it happened all the time and we all had well practiced mental tricks and work to do to help us suck it up and drive on. Also the fact that there was a real America back home and a real Constitution to support and defend offered some solace. It's well to remember that despite the fact that the nation seems to be crashing all around us, those men and women are doing the right things for the right reasons. When they fall, ours is the task of catching their torch and holding it high. The hurt is enormous, but it's also the price of Liberty.

    1. You're right about that being the price of Liberty.

  4. Can not imagine anything other than mechanical failure. I watched all the El Centro practices this season. No way of pilot error at this stage of the practice. Capt Kuss showed the courage and commitment to ensure the aircraft did not impact a populated area. "Where do we get such men?" He, rightful so, joins the top banner. No slouches there.

    1. Sometimes things go sideways, and there's nothing you can do.

      I'll always remember them.

  5. In the last few years I have been repeatedly reminded of the temporal nature of life. We go from day today assuming that the next day will be as the last. It's an easy state to be in because that's all we have known.

    But that isn't the way life is unfortunately.

    I'm with one of the above posters believing that it had to of been a mechanical failure. How many hours do those hornets have on them now?

    1. It's tough when suddenly, everything changes.

      I don't know how many hours those Hornets have on them but I'm sure it's a lot. The Blues maintainers are damn good, but it's still tough to get parts.

      Traditionally the government will lay out big bucks for the end item and then skimp on the spare parts.

      Things in the fleet are worse. The kids are making do with what they've got, but it ain't enough. Something's got to give.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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