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Lancaster County Academy grad helps keep Blue Angels soaring

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blue angels, lancaster county academy, navy
blue angels, lancaster county academy, navy
blue angels, lancaster county academy, navy
When the Blue Angels fly overhead in
their gleaming F/A-18 Hornets, onlookers may gasp admiringly at the
daring pilots who take those mighty warbirds aloft.
But
the unsung heroes of the U.S. Navy’s renowned flight demonstration
squadron are the men and women who keep the birds in the air. This year,
that elite team has added Lititz native Matthew Miller to its roster.
“He’s in aircraft maintenance for the Blue Angels,” proud grandfather Donald Miller, also of Lititz, said Thursday.

“It’s a very elite group,” he says. “You have to know what you’re doing — and the pilots have to have faith in you.”
Miller, a second-class petty officer, serves as a maintenance control specialist, according to the Blue Angels website.

Academy turnaround

Although Miller is achieving success in the Navy, it wasn’t always an easy climb.
Matthew
Miller and his younger brothers Kyle and Devin were raised by their
grandparents, Donald and Barbara, from an early age, Donald Miller said.
Because of the circumstances of their earlier years, he said, Matthew
grew up with some behavioral issues.
“It
was tough on him. He felt like nobody wanted him,” his grandfather
says. “He had problems with school. He didn’t want to buckle down,
didn’t want to listen to anybody. He had discipline problems.”
Unable
to complete classes at Warwick High School, Matthew Miller later
enrolled at the Lancaster County Academy, which offers students who have
struggled in traditional public schools an alternative education
program, in 2004.
“The academy really helped him,” his grandfather says.
Lancaster County Academy director Diane Tyson says Miller did well at the academy, earning his diploma in 2005.
“He
was a member of our ‘Stream Team,’ an environmental service learning
class that worked with local environmental projects,” she said in an
email. “He was recognized by the staff at graduation with the Senior
Standout award. His leadership skills were emerging then!”
His selection for the Blue Angels team, she adds, “is a real honor.”

Military selection

His grandfather says he talked Matthew into joining the military, and young Matt opted for Navy service.
Now 28, Matthew Miller is among the newest members of the Blue Angels maintenance crew.
Policy
prohibits him from talking to the media, his grandmother, Barbara,
says. Neither Miller nor the public affairs office for the Blue Angels
could be reached for comment.
But that doesn’t bar the proud grandparents from boasting just a little about his work.
He spent the last three months in
training at the Navy Air Facility in El Centro, California, Barbara
Miller says. Now he’s back in Pensacola, Florida, where he lives with
his wife, Meggan, and their sons, ages 2 and 4.
The Blue Angels tour quite a lot, but Pensacola is the squad’s home base, his grandmother says.
Previously,
she says, he was stationed at Naval Air Station in Meridian,
Mississippi, and Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C.
Donald Miller says his grandson learned last spring that he was slotted for one among 100 posts with the Blue Angels.
“He
was excited. He really was,” the elder Miller says. “And he got me
excited. It’s an elite group — it’s an honor to be selected, just to be
there.”
He doesn’t know yet if his grandson will make a career of the Navy.
“He’s not sure,” Donald Miller says. “He loves to be with his family — that’s the toughest part for him.”
He
has already re-enlisted twice, he says, and has served three times in
Afghanistan. He has three years left on his current enlistment.
Whatever he chooses, Donald Miller says, the family is proud of Matthew’s accomplishments.
“He’s our oldest grandson,” he says. “We raised him, and we love him to death. He’s grown into a good man.”

About the Blue Angels

THE FORMATION:
The Blue Angels were established on April 24, 1946, on the orders of
Adm. Chester W. Nimitz for use as a U.S. Navy recruiting tool. Their
first show was on June 15, 1946, in Jacksonville, Florida.
THE NAME:
Oddly enough, the name was picked by the original Blue Angels squad
after seeing the Blue Angel nightclub mentioned in New Yorker magazine.
SPEED AND DISTANCE:
Aircraft speeds range from 120 mph to 700 mph during a show, with
altitudes ranging from 50 feet to 15,000 feet. During the Diamond 360
maneuver, aircraft are within 18 inches of each other.
THE COLORS: The jets are painted blue and gold because those are the official colors of the U.S. Navy.
SOURCE: U.S. Navy Blue Angels

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