Residents of the area and students at St. Mary School watched as a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter landed on the field across from the school on Thursday morning, blowing grass and threatening hats.
The aircrew wasn’t responding to an emergency, but bringing their aircraft out for the students to see as the school commemorated Veterans Day.
“It’s fun to do something different,” said Lt. j.g. Lukas Montion, one of the helicopter’s pilots, in an interview. “I cannot believe how many questions they asked. Very curious, very smart.”
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Richard Villar, a Coast Guard veteran and teacher at St. Mary, helped to arrange the helicopter, flying up from Coast Guard Air Station Astoria, alongside a color guard made up from boat crewmembers stationed at Coast Guard Station Westport.
“This visit’s unique. We’ve never been here to St. Mary,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Mastriano, a member of the color guard from Station Westport. “Being able to come out here with the helo crew and the boat crew, it’s nice to give people both perspectives.”
Students from St. Mary held an assembly as the color guard presented the colors, and then watched as the helicopter made its approach and landing.
“It was really cool to see it fly over and land in front of the school,” said sixth grader Parker Hollingsworth in an interview. “I enjoyed that they answered our questions and taught us about it.”
The flight required some deft coordination, Villar said. Arrangements took about a month to make. Villar thanked the school administration, the Aberdeen Police Department and volunteers who helped keep the roads clear during the event.
“This is way cooler than I would have ever thought. It required a lot of participation,” Villar said. “These guys are so professional. They’re giving up their time to be here.”
That face-to-face time is invaluable, Mastriano said.
“It’s always a good experience to reach out to the community, tell them what we do, let them know we’re out there on the water keeping them safe,” Mastriano said. “It’s nice to let people know what we do. Some people live on the coast and still don’t know what we do because the service is so small.”
It also gave St. Mary students, alongside seniors from Aberdeen High School, the chance to ask questions they might not ordinarily get the chance to.
“I felt like the propeller was really cool,” said seventh grader Brandon Mooney. “Mr. Villar told us a lot about the Coast Guard and the dangerous missions they do.”
The kids asked solid, incisive questions, Montion said.
“I was expecting just … kids being kids. They asked a ton of questions, intelligent questions,” Montion said. “We work in Grays Harbor County all the time. It’s cool to meet the community.”