Both of the U.S. military’s high-drama, high-dollar flying teams suffered crashes on the same day this week, but supporters say the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels are worth the money and the risk because they’re vital to recruitment and help citizens feel good about their military.

“It’s our No. 1 recruiting tool,” said retired Air Force Col. Pete McCaffrey, a pilot with the Thunderbirds from 1992 to 1995.

Most people don’t get to see the military up close, but when they see the elite air squadrons perform, “it gives them a sense of pride in their military and their country, and I think now we need that more than ever,” McCaffrey said Friday.

A Blue Angels F/A-18 crashed Thursday near Nashville, Tennessee, while taking off for a practice session ahead of a weekend air show. The pilot, Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, was killed.