Nick "Smog" Brown, an F-35 Instructor Pilot with the 58th Fighter Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, tragically passed away in a free-diving accident in Destin, Florida, on November 11th, 2023. He was 34 years old. A fighter pilot, friend, and faithful Christian, Nick was above all a dedicated and loving husband and father. He lived a life of service, adventure, and love that many seek but few fulfill.
Nicholas Cole Brown was born in Austin, Texas, on January 25th, 1989 to Michael and Holly Brown. Raised in Cedar Park, Texas, Nick grew up playing baseball and lacrosse and building potato guns. Friends were drawn by his special combination of humility, enthusiasm, and genuine interest in those around him. At age 16 he began dating the love of his life, Kacee Jo Alexander, after they had spent time together serving at the Texas Baptist Children's Home in Round Rock. Nick won over Kacee's family with his trustworthiness and easygoing, unflappable personality. After graduating from Cedar Park High School as a National Honor Society member, Nick and Kacee went to Lubbock to attend Texas Tech University, the first of a lifetime of moves they would make together.
Nick was a gifted student who stood out in his mechanical engineering program in college, but the most significant decisions in his life were the ones he made not by rigorous analysis but by bursts of passion. A characteristic grin and sparkle in his eye would appear when he was contemplating an idea he was excited about, such as the one that came to him on the eve of a big football game against rival UT in 2008: "If we win, I'm going to propose to Kacee," he told friends. The Red Raiders won in a thrilling upset, and 19-year old Nick and 20-year old Kacee became engaged that very night. After tying the knot in January 2010, their home became the favorite gathering place and study haunt for their many friends.
Nick was selected for the competitive Department of Defense SMART scholarship after college, so the young couple packed up for Utah. Nick took a civilian contract engineer position at Hill Air Force Base while completing a masters in engineering at the University of Utah. During their time in Utah, Nick and Kacee became parents when their daughter Raylee (9) was born in 2014. It was also there that Nick decided to pursue his dream of becoming a fighter pilot. He applied to and was selected for Air Force pilot training, setting the family on a new adventure that would take them all across the country and globe.
Upon commissioning as an officer at Maxwell AFB in Alabama, Nick completed pilot training at Sheppard AFB in Texas, where he excelled and earned a coveted fighter slot. F-16 training followed at Hollomon AFB in New Mexico, and then on to his first operational assignment with the 13th Fighter Squadron at Misawa Air Base in Japan. These years were filled with much excitement--new squadrons, new friends, new jets--but in every place they went friends recall Nick and Kacee's generosity and kindness to others, and their deep love for each other. In Japan, Nick and Kacee grew their family when they welcomed their son Gavin (4), and it was also there that Nick was given the callsign by which his fellow fighter pilots will forever know him: "Smog."
Smog was a natural fighter pilot, and he distinguished himself wherever he went. After becoming one of the rare few to complete the Instructor Pilot upgrade in his first assignment, Smog chose to embark on yet another new adventure when he accepted an assignment to fly the F-35 at Eglin AFB, Florida. A member of the 58th Fighter Squadron at Eglin, Smog again excelled, quickly completing the Instructor Pilot upgrade in the new aircraft, and then being named a Flight Commander. The title Smog was proudest to bear in the 58th, however, was "Mr. Harambe"--a position of moral leadership among the squadron's pilots.
Always an adventurer, Nick loved being outdoors. He enjoyed camping in Texas, hiking in Utah, skiing in Japan, and, after falling in love with the emerald waters of the Florida Gulf Coast, he especially loved spearfishing. Nick spent many hours free-diving with a snorkel and a spear gun. He would often share pictures and stories of his underwater adventures: the magic of sitting on the ocean floor watching the puzzled fish approach, the thrill of seeing a shark swim past, and the excitement of hauling a big catch to the surface to bring home to the family. Nick left this world doing a thing that he greatly loved. He now rests in the tender embrace of our Lord Jesus.
Nick will be terribly missed by all who knew him, but will be remembered with joy for his warm smile, easy laugh, cheerful demeanor, and enthusiasm for life. Most of all he will be remembered for his life of service, faith, and love. He is survived by his wife, Kacee; their two children, Raylee and Gavin; his parents, Michael and Holly Brown; brothers, Corey and Tanner; numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins; and a tremendous family of fighter pilots and friends, who will never forget him.
A military memorial will be held on Friday, November 17th, at Eglin Air Force Base. A celebration of life service will be held at Crosspoint Church in Niceville on Monday, November 20th. Memories and contributions to support the family are being collected at the following site: https://linktr.ee/nicksmogbrown