Air Force Capt. Mark Uberuaga visited second-graders Thursday at Lyons Elementary School. The class "adopted" him when he was in Afghanistan. JAMES GREGG / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

After months of sending cards and cookies, a group of second-graders at Lyons Elementary School received a special visit from their pen pal, Air Force Capt. Mark Uberuaga.

Uberuaga, a combat search-and-rescue pilot, spent three months in Afghanistan before returning Feb. 4.

He stopped by Elizabeth Wiley's classroom Thursday to thank the children for their support and to fill them in on his trip.

As he told students that he piloted a HH-60G Pave Hawk aircraft, one student had to make sure he heard Captain Mark - as the kids referred to him - correctly.

"Wait, did you say you fly a helicopter?" the student asked.

Second-grader George Lucas was equally impressed.

"I think he is a great guy," George said of Uberuaga. "I would love to be in a helicopter."

Uberuaga also took time to pass around some of his equipment and explain the patches he had on his uniform.

Setah Smith, 7, enjoyed the story Uberuaga told about the first life he saved upon arriving in Afghanistan - that of a little boy who fell off of a roof and hit his head.

This was Uberuaga's first tour of Afghanistan but has been deployed to Iraq three times.

"Your letters were super sweet," he told the children as he arrived. "It was encouraging to know you all supported us."

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at 573-4175 or