Soldier surprises student pen pals

Posted at: 05/20/2013 7:40 AM
By: Heather Mills, KOB Eyewitness News 4


He's a hero to kids that have never even met him. Serving overseas in Afghanistan, a soldier and an Albuquerque 4th grade class were just pen pals. That is until he gave them a big surprise.

It started off simple for Ms. Chavez's 4th grade class at Oñate Elementary. The students sent a letter to a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. He wrote back. "We received a letter with pictures and they were just ecstatic," said teacher Anissa Chavez.

Next, it was care packages and a class lesson on the New Mexico Air National Guard. "They wanted to research his helicopter, his uniform, his military," Chavez said.

He became a friend they'd never met and a hero they wanted to become. Student Gabriel Funches said, "He was out there flying helicopters and saving people." Dominic Martinez added, "He saves people a lot."

Fast forward several months to Career Day and the kids were in for a big surprise. Chavez explained, "Once he put his name up there, they were overjoyed." Among the gasps and euphoric clapping the kids all rushed up for a big hug with Lieutenant Colonel Scott Minas.

Dominic exclaimed, "We had no idea he was going to come!"

Back from his tour overseas, Lt. Col. Minas stopped by the class to tell them about his job as a helicopter pilot. "Sometimes you have to move the patient away from where all the bad guys are," explained Lt. Col. Minas.

He answered questions, showed off his gear and presented the class with a special plaque. "This flag was on board when we saved a lot of lives," said Lt. Col. Minas.

"My heart was just elated. I could just tell their eyes, they turned to me, a few of them had tears," said Chavez.

A relationship forged from a class project that turned into something much bigger. "To have these kids come up and hug me today, that I've never even met, I didn't expect that," said Lt. Col. Minas. He added, "The dividends that have been paid can't even be measured."

"I will never forget this and I know they never will either," said Chavez.