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Posted May 21, 2013

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Air National Guard Pilot Surprises Oñate Class

‘Adopted’ pilot returns home to make a career day appearance before excited fourth graders.

Lt. Col. Scott Minas answered questions from students at Oñate Elementary

Not many career fair presentations begin and end with group hugs, but one at Oñate Elementary last week did.

Students in Anissa Chavez’s fourth grade class had been corresponding with Lt. Col. Scott Minas in Afghanistan all year. They didn’t really know what he looked like because photos they had seen were either distant or his face was obscured by his helmet, so they didn’t recognize him when he walked into their classroom.

But, when he wrote his name on the board, surprise and excitement filled the room. There were gasps of “Oh my gosh!” and “It’s him!” and “He’s really here!” Then, students rushed forward to shower Minas with affection.

Chavez only told her class that a member of the military would be the final career fair speaker. When one suggested that she should have arranged for Minas to serve that role, Chavez merely replied that it sounded like a good idea.

The excitement never died down, but Minas was able to tell students about his job flying Black Hawk helicopters on rescue missions as a member of the New Mexico Air National Guard. He answered their questions about flying and saving the lives of American and British soldiers, enemy fighters and even a dog.

“We help anyone who’s hurt,” Minas said of his four-month tour. “There’s no one we can’t rescue.”

Minas also brought the class a special present they will always remember. It’s a framed American flag that the squad carried on its helicopter, along with a card signed by each member of the squad and the British airmen who flew in the same formation. The signatures include one by a Capt. Harry Wales, also known as Prince Harry of Wales, who was assigned there at the time.

Chavez found Minas through a friend after her class asked to “adopt” a soldier this year. They sent letters and care packages to Afghanistan and Minas responded. Minas said he loved being able to read the letters aloud to his fellow troops, and all were appreciated.

“It’s amazing to receive such support from children we’ve never even met,” Minas said. “If they were going to take the time to write to us, we were going to hear what they had to say.”

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