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Naval petty officer from Lake Forest returning home with Blue Angels

Petty Officer 1st Class Mike Hearn of Lake Forest works on one of the Blue Angels' F/A-18 Hornet aircraft before a demonstration.

Navy Petty Officer Mike Hearn says his love of flight has come full circle.

The 10-year member of the U.S. Navy has loved flying since he was a kid. One of his fondest memories was heading to visit family at the Miramar air station and seeing the Navy’s Blue Angels fly overhead.

Now, Hearn works on those aircraft, maintaining them for the pilots who fly in 60 air shows across 35 cities in the United States, including three in California, starting with the Miramar Air Show today through Sunday.

“That’s always special, because I get to see my family,” Hearn said. “The last time I was in Miramar it was like I’d come full circle; this was where I started.”

Hearn graduated from El Toro High in 2005 and spent a year at Saddleback College before joining the Navy in 2006. He was stationed in Virginia Beach, Va., for five years while undergoing training for his current role as an aviation instructional mechanic.

He then was sent to West Palm Beach, Fla., where he got the opportunity to pass his passion of aviation on to the next wave of sailors.

“My recruiters took care of me, so I decided to pay it forward,” he said.

It wasn’t until nearly two years ago that he got an opportunity to join the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, better known as the Blue Angels.

“It was one of those things where you don’t expect to make the team, but … I’m not going to live with any regrets; I’m going to put my best foot forward and give it a shot,” Hearn said. “I was blessed and lucky enough to get selected for the team.”

Hearn maintains the paint scheme and corrosion control of the aircraft, F/A-18 Hornets. In the past, he’s also been responsible for the landing gear, hydraulic systems, composite sheet metal and structural repairs.

During his service, Hearn has been deployed twice to the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf to assist in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.

Of his assignments, Hearn said the most rewarding aspect of his service has been traveling, with an emphasis on touring the country and seeing all it has to offer.

“Every time I get to go to a city in this great country and showcase the fine professionals of our Navy and Marine Corps to everybody,” Hearn said. “To see their faces light up, that makes it worth it no matter where I’m at.”

But flight holds a more prominent place in his heart. Seeing the faces of children light up at an air show as they experience the same thrill Hearn did as a kid is the reward for all of his hard work through the years.

After Miramar, the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron will head to Northern California for weekend shows in Sacramento Oct. 1-2 and San Francisco Oct. 8-10.

“The best thing is I get to take everything that I love and pass it along to the next generation,” Hearn said. “A lot of us have that same story; we joined the Navy because we saw a show when we were a kid. We’re literally looking at ourselves from 20 years ago.”