This last weekend I had the honor of attending a funeral.It’s not that often that you have the opportunity to say such a thing.Funerals are things that you attend, and sometimes they can be very uncomfortable.This one was a reunion of Naval Aviators, and a virtual Who’s Who of Naval Aviation.My old friend and Skipper, John “Smash” Nash passed away of Alzheimer’s disease.He was one of the original cadre of pilots that started “Top Gun”.
I was hoping to include the fly over video that was performed by two F-18s and two F-16s from Top Gun, but the clip hasn’t yet been posted.If it shows up I will include it on the blog. After a 21 gun salute and a beautiful rendition of Taps by a Navy Bugler, Top Gun performed the missing man formation flawlessly.As they got over the cemetery, one of the F-16s plugged it into afterburner and went straight up.At the apex of his climb he did a victory roll, in appreciation of the service and bravery of a fallen brother.Although we were at the departure end of Miramar in San Diego where the movie Top Gun was filmed, the school has moved to NAS Fallon Nevada.That’s right the current skipper of Top Gun arranged to position these aircraft in San Diego and got approval to make this flyover from MiramarTower in a tribute to Smash’s service..
Smash was a native of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.He received his undergraduate degree from Mississippi Southern and a Masters from Auburn.His Commendations include the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, (23) Air Medals, a Navy Commendation, and he was my friend and mentor.Smash taught me how to fly the Phantom as Yoda taught Luke the light saber.But he also taught me the importance of fighting a paper war.No one could write a more substantial/forceful letter than Smash. He also taught me and my son to appreciate the beauty and serenity of fly fishing in Montana. If you are wondering, John got his call sign as a result of a student hitting him with a closure rate of over a 1,000 knots.John came out of the fireball, the only survivor, hanging in his chute with the call sign, “Smash Nash.” John's performance at the Pt. Magu airshow with an F-14 was so impressive that the Blue Angel Skipper stated, "we're not performing after him again." Smash's performance in fighters surpasses the legendary Bob Hoover's P-51 talents.
Sure the memorial service had many famous naval aviators in attendance, and personalities that were bigger than life.Admiral Dan Pederson, the first Skipper of Top Gun, Willie Driscol, (Ace), Cannonball Crenshaw (Mig killer and my roommate), Denny Wisley (Blues Skipper) and Homer Blevins (State Congressman from Wyoming).The room was filled with Naval Royalty.I was honored to speak to this group and tell a story or two about my ol friend.Rest in Peace Smash, we’ll fly again soon.