Denfeld News

May 25, 2009
Duluth News Tribune

Family’s 148th tradition leads teen to Air Force Academy
By Steve Kuchera

Serving with Duluth’s 148th Fighter Wing is a tradition for Evan Blazevic’s family: His grandfather, father, two uncles, an aunt and two cousins have served a combined total of more than 150 years in the outfit.

But Evan chose another way to serve his country. The Denfeld senior applied for, and won, an appointment to the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs, Colo. He leaves next month.

“There was the whole family background thing,” Evan, 18, said of considering a military career. “I started looking at different jobs in the Air Guard. Then, somehow I got thinking about becoming an officer, and the Air Force Academy came up on the list of options. It seemed like the best fit for me — the structure, the discipline.”

Evan is going a notch above the rest of the family, said his father, Master Sgt. David Blazevic.

“He’s stepping out of the bounds — going into the regular Air Force,” Dave said.

The family’s background with the 148th began in the mid-1950s, when Jerome Blazevic — Evan’s grandfather — joined the outfit. He left as a chief master sergeant when he reached mandatory retirement age of 60 in 1985.

“I joined because they needed me and they had a job for me,” Jerome said. “I took a leave of absence from Diamond Tool. I never figured on staying with the Guard.”

Jerome didn’t pressure his sons to join the 148th.

“All I did was do my job there,” he said. “I must have influenced them enough so that they came in.”

And come in they did.

Dave — the 148th’s 2009 Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year — has served with the wing 34 years. His brother, Tim, has served 31 years. Tim’s wife, Wendy, served 10. Another Blazevic brother, Jerry, served nearly 40 years before retiring. Jerry’s son, Ryan, was recently commissioned a lieutenant after 14 years with the 148th; another son, Rory, recently enlisted. And Jerry’s daughter-in-law, Mistica, is a lieutenant in the Army National Guard.

Dave remembers his father bringing the family to the base to see what was going on.

“There never was any pressure to join; it just sort of grew on us,” he said. “We saw an opportunity and took it. We enjoy this unit.”

When Dave was his son’s age he toyed with the idea of applying to the Air Force Academy himself. But he worried that an officer with his eyesight would be restricted to a desk job. With the 148th he works with his hands, repairing and maintaining jet engines.

Like so many in his family, Evan plans to make the military his career. And he wants to become a pilot.

“I definitely want to make sure my life isn’t wasted and that I get an option to do everything I can,” he said. “I want to travel as much as possible, so I hope the Air Force can help me with that.”

Nearly 10,000 students applied for admission to the academy this year. About 1,600 received appointments. The academy pays students’ tuition, room and board. Students also receive a monthly salary.

“We’re looking for a well-rounded person, not someone who is simply academic or simply an athlete,” said Shelley Chandler, the academy admissions liaison officer who helped Evan through the admissions process.

“I think he’s a great candidate for the academy,” Chandler said. “He’s motivated. He has a military background, he has an idea of what he’s getting into. I think he’s ready for adventure and ready for challenges. We’re looking forward to having him there.”

Evan’s mother, Jill Blazevic, works at Morgan Park Middle School. Teachers there remember Evan talking about the Air Force Academy when he was a student there.

“It’s neat to see it come true,” Jill Blazevic said. “He’s making it happen. We’re super-proud of him.”

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