SAN DIEGO, CALIF. – As missions go, this one was easy: Fly an MH-60S Knighthawk across San Diego Bay so the helicopter could be displayed at the WEST 2015 conference.
Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) (AW) Thomas Fint was one of four crew members Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 8 (HSC-8) tasked with the Feb. 7 mission to deliver the MH-60S from North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado to the San Diego Convention Center.
The rescue swimmer realized he could turn the short mission into a major milestone: Asking his girlfriend to marry him.
So that Saturday morning, Fint – he had covertly won her parents’ approval the day before– tucked the small box holding a diamond engagement ring into a pocket and took off. He replayed in his mind how it would go, telling himself, “Please be able to find the ring in my pocket.” The three-minute flight might end up being the most exciting and nervous moments of the 920 hours he’s amassed in the air, he told USNI News.
Outside the bayfront convention center, Jennifer Miller, 23, waited with her parents and friends who gathered to watch what she figured would be a very a cool moment, watching his military helicopter park on the unusual landing zone of a city street.
The helicopter approached the convention center, spun around and landed on the road. Fint and another crewman jumped off, placed the chocks behind the tires and quickly strode toward the gathering crowd. He spotted Miller, who wore a bright pink vest, and approached her. “I tried to make everything seem as cool and as calm as possible,” he said.
Miller saw the two sailors walking toward her, and she thought they had to get something that was behind her. Before she knew it, Fint, decked in his flight suit and gear, kissed her and quickly got down on one knee. “I could see him mouth the words, ‘will you marry me’,” she told USNI News.
“I took my earplugs off and said, what? I looked behind me to see. I had to ask him, is this real?”
It took Miller a few seconds, in the din of the noise from the helicopter’s spinning rotors, to process what was happening. Fint felt a split-second panic, thinking, “I don’t think she’s going to answer me.” Miller stepped back and was momentarily stunned. “When I realized it, I got really excited,” she said.
Friends and his fellow rescue swimmer captured the proposal on video. The couple, who met in San Diego through friends and have dated about a year and a half, plan to marry in about a year or so. They haven’t set a date, although Miller got an early start to planning their wedding, thanks to a convention center event planner who witnessed the proposal (so, too, did Fint’s commanding officer and commodore, he said). The woman gave her free tickets to a bridal bazaar the convention center hosted the following day.
A week after the proposal, busy with flights and classes, the engaged couple remained on Cloud 9.
“We’re still kind of getting over the shock of it,” Fint said Friday. Said Miller: “It was definitely something right out of the movies.”