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Twenty four years after his father was killed in the line of duty as a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy, Joseph Blair will fulfill his lifelong dream of joining the department himself.

His father, Deputy Stephen Wayne Blair was fatally shot by a gang member in Lynwood when Blair was just 6 years old.

The loss profoundly impacted Blair, and he vowed to follow in his dad’s footsteps.

“I always looked up to him,” Blair said. “He was my first hero.”

Now 30, Blair is fulfilling his dream. On Friday, he becomes a sworn deputy with the Sheriff’s Department.

Despite the risks of the job, and the lasting reminder of the loss of a loved one, Blair couldn’t imagine a more fitting career of service, continuing an important legacy.

“I think what drew me from a very young age, it’s good vs. evil,” Blair said. “Growing up, you see that you can help people, and that’s something I’ve always wanted to do, even after his death.”

Sheriff Jim McDonnell was at a pinning ceremony for new deputies on Thursday, and said Blair’s passion for his new job is palpable.

“To be able to see Joe come on the job, and to be able to have the excitement that he has, the passion for the mission, and to have such a supportive family, who’s been through so much, but yet, has encouraged him every step of the way.”

Family members joined Blair during the pinning ceremony, during which he proudly displayed the sheriff’s star badge on his uniform over his heart. It was adorned with the same numbers his dad also wore: 257.

A distinguished honor shared with the hero, he says, never left his side.

“I believe he’s watching over me, for sure. It’s been a long journey,” Blair said.