04/23/09 — Blue Angels have several members with local, N.C. ties

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Blue Angels have several members with local, N.C. ties

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 23, 2009 1:46 PM

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One of the Navy Blue Angels taxis down the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base runway this morning. The elite F/A-18 Super Hornet demonstration team arrived in advance of its performances at this weekend's Wings Over Wayne air show.

Jennifer Blake

Jeff Harper

Steve Lipscomb

Nearly 20 years ago, a 9-year-old boy left his Southport home for a family outing.

Hours later, he was walking around Seymour Johnson Air Force Base -- taking in everything Wings Over Wayne had to offer.

Jeff Harper will be back at the event that left him awestruck as a little boy this weekend.

But unlike that trip two decades ago, he won't be getting here via the family car.

In fact, he arrived this morning -- with the other members of the Navy Blue Angels.

Harper is one of three members of the high-profile demonstration team with North Carolina ties.

So is Steve Lipscomb, who grew up right here in Wayne County.

"You know, they say, 'Once a Blue Angel, always a Blue Angel,'" said Lipscomb, an Eastern Wayne High School graduate. "Well, I always say, 'Once a Warrior, always a Warrior.'"

Jennifer Blake grew up near Camp Lejeune.

And like Lipscomb and Harper, she can't wait to show family and friends exactly what she has been doing as a member of the team that travels the world spreading the message of the U.S. Navy.

"It's kind of hard to explain how you put on an air show," she said.

This will be her first Wings Over Wayne experience -- as a participant or spectator.

"We never went," Blake said. "I grew up the river from Cherry Point. That was all I needed."


Each of these three sailors will surely have dozens on base this weekend to support them.

And Lipscomb will get a taste of his mother's fried chicken and Wilber's barbecue.

But each understands that this weekend is about more than coming home.

"We want to reflect the positive aspects of the military. Our mission is, in part, to recruit," Blake said. "And we are representing all the men and women who are still out there in the fleet."

And like the men and women who left Harper inspired during that family air show visit 20 years ago, they, now, will be the role models.

"It's awesome signing autographs and stuff like that," Harper said.

"It's an honor and a privilege," Lipscomb added. "I am stoked."

For more on the Blue Angels, including interviews with the pilots and a look at this morning's practice run, see www.NewsArgus.com