U.S. NavyCape Cod Community College, Massachusetts
By Madeline Patton
Being the best of the best—a Top Gun fighter pilot like Tom Cruise in the 1986 film of the same name—was all that Douglas C. Verissimo talked about when he entered Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable, Mass.
Not only did he become a fighter pilot, but Verissimo went on to fly as the best of the Blue Angels, the Navy’s precision flying team.
He was selected to fly the "Opposing Solo" position during demonstrations in 1998 and the "Lead Solo" position during 1999—the two most demanding roles on the team. The solo pilots must execute flight maneuvers with absolute precision to avoid head-on crashes with oncoming aircraft flying while both are flying faster than the speed of sound.
Recently promoted to Lieutenant Commander, Verissimo completed his three-year tour with Blue Angels as squadron operations officer and is now deployed on the nuclear aircraft carrier John C. Stennis in the Persian Gulf. He is the flight deck officer in charge of the personnel who catapult jet planes off the ship.
"As a child I thought that being a naval aviator was beyond my reach, but dreams do come true," says Verissimo.
For Verissimo, the fulfillment of that dream meant participating in charitable activities everywhere the Blue Angels flew. He welcomed gravely ill children who attend the shows through the Make A Wish Foundation and showed them his aircraft. On Fridays, he would visit schools and hospitals. His favorite part of these visits, he says, was connecting with kids—particularly at high schools where he talked about the importance of staying in school and off drugs.
After graduating from Cape Cod in 1987, Verissimo enlisted in the Navy and was accepted in the Naval Aviation Cadet program. He earned his commission and gold wings in 1989.
He reported to Strike Fighter Squadron 25—"the fist of the fleet"—in 1990 and was assigned to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Independence. During that period, the Independence operated in the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf as a spearhead for Operation Desert Shield.
In December 1993, Verissimo entered California State University at Fresno. He earned a bachelor of mathematics degree there in 1995 and joined the Blue Angels in October 1996.
His personal decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal as well as various unit and campaign awards.